The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 71,000 children under the age of 18 visit emergency departments in this country every year because of accidental ingestion of medications. They also estimate 44 people die every day in the U.S. due to abuse of prescription medications.
As an emergency physician, I have seen my share of these tragedies. From a child suffering seizures from a parent’s smoking cessation aid, to the tragic death of a young adult from prescription pain medication abuse, these cases devastate families.
According to federal data from 2010, the nation’s emergency departments see approximately 1.3 million patients annually for pharmaceutical misuse and abuse. Many of these visits could be prevented.
Often, simple precautions can keep children and others safe from accidental or unintentional overdose. One of the simplest ways to prevent medication misuse is by removing the threat from your home.
Saturday, September 26, 2015 is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Many local businesses and law-enforcement agencies will be collecting medications for appropriate disposal.
Flushing medications down the toilet or throwing them away is often not the safest way to dispose of these drugs. In some cases it may even be illegal. These annual take-back events are a safe, responsible, and convenient way to remove unwanted, unneeded, and expired medications from your home.
Some other quick tips to keep in mind about prescription drug use:
- Though some may recall seeing recent news coverage that some medications may remain effective even past their expiration date, there is seldom a reason to retain medications after the expiration.
- Medications can interact with other medications. Many safeguards exist with modern computerized recordkeeping to double check prescription interactions with each other in a patient. Sharing medications with someone else or retaining them for years to come when new medications might have been prescribed is never a good idea.
- Prescription drugs aren’t the only problem. Even common over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or even iron supplementation can be deadly if taken in large amounts. A small child only needs to ingest a fraction of the amount that an adult would to reach a toxic level.
- Be sure to store all medications in child resistant packaging. Keep all medications out of sight and out of reach of children.
Take the time now to check your medicine cabinets, drawers, desks, purses, briefcases, cars, and anywhere else you may be keeping medications. Remove and properly discard any expired medications or unneeded previously used medications that you have. And don’t forget: Before taking your medications to a medication take-back location, it is also often suggested that you scratch out or remove any personal information from the bottle or packaging such as name, birthdate, or address.
See this site for information on finding your nearest medication take-back location: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/NTBI/NTBI-PUB.pub;jsessionid=292996AC56AC063B838CDE60486757E8?_flowExecutionKey=_c93F1B01D-5352-6C4D-A846-8A00D86A0FC4_kA98307F7-FCCE-9ED0-5A5F-21F2FE0D33A3
Some businesses and health care agencies may collect unwanted or expired medications beyond the annual event. See this website for sites near you: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e2s1
Take the next steps:
- Find your nearest medication take-back location.
- Live or work near U-M? Visit one of our upcoming October take-back events.
- Make sure all medications are stored out of the reach of children.
- Learn more about National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.