Did you know that using prescription drugs that are not prescribed for you is considered drug abuse? Do you know what medications are in your medicine cabinet right now? Do you know if your children or their friends have been in these prescription drugs? Do you know how to dispose of prescription drugs that you no longer need or want?
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Carmen Catizone, the Executive Director/Secretary of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). I was able to ask him several questions about prescription drug abuse and why, as parents, we should be concerned about this.
- Over 6 million Americans use prescription drugs such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, and stimulants non-medically
- More than half the prescription drug abusers aged 12 or older obtain the drugs from family or friends
- The number of children 5 and older seen in the emergency rooms for prescription drug self-exposure has increased dramatically
- Between 1998 and 2008, the number of people who were admitted for drug abuse treatment who abused prescription drugs grew more than 4 times
- 4 out of 10 teens believe that using prescription drugs is safer than illegal drugs, even if not prescribed by their physician
PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE IS DRUG ABUSE.
Let’s see what Dr. Carmen A. Catizone, MS, RPh, DPh has to share with us.
What is prescription drug abuse and why should we be concerned?
Prescription drug abuse is defined as using medication that may or may not be prescribed to you, purely for the experience or feelings produced, ie, taking medication to feel intoxicated. Taking medication not prescribed for you can lead to serious health consequences, permanent injuries, or death. If used incorrectly prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs. For example, taking attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications (such as Adderall® or Ritalin®) when not prescribed can cause cardiovascular complications, such as an elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, or even sudden death. Other controlled substance (CS) medications, such as certain pain pills, have the potential for abuse, and taking these medications if they are not prescribed to you could lead to addiction.
What types of drugs are dangerous for children that can be prescribed?
Medications that are not taken according to a physician’s directions can be dangerous. Of the 3.4 billion prescriptions dispensed each year, nearly 50% are taken improperly, which can lead to hospitalization, side effects, and even death. The potential for adverse drug events is three times higher in children, so it is essential to learn how to correctly administer their medications: use the dosing instrument provided with the medicine for administration (avoid using a teaspoon or tablespoon from your flatware collection); do not crush or split pills unless instructed to do so by your doctor or pharmacist; and do not allow children within your family to share medications prescribed for a particular child.
As a parent, what can I do to ensure my prescription drugs are safe from my children and children who might be visiting?
Secure storage is the first step towards ensuring that prescription drugs are not accessible to inappropriate recipients, so simply storing medication in a bathroom medicine cabinet is no longer an option. More than 50% of teens say that it is easy to obtain prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinet (Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, 2012). All medications in the household should preferably be stored in a locked cabinet, medicine safe, a high shelf in a linen closet, or another unexpected location. In particular, you should store CS prescription drugs, such as certain pain medications and ADHD medications, as securely as possible. Avoid kitchen cabinets or dresser drawers, as these are often some of the first places that people look for prescription medications. You may also wish to keep track of the number of pills left in the bottle to ensure that none have gone missing.
How can I dispose of old prescription medications safely?
Many drug disposal sites, which utilize drug drop boxes or mail-back programs, have opened across the country. These sites typically accept prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements for disposal. Many law enforcement locations can accept CS) for disposal, and new federal regulations have made it possible for non-law enforcement locations (eg, pharmacies) to begin accepting CS for disposal. The AWARXE® Prescription Drug Safety Program’s website, www.AWARErx.org, has a search engine called the Locator Tool that can be used to find local disposal sites. Check with your local disposal site to see if they have begun to collect CS.
If you cannot get to a drug disposal site, try medication disposal at home. The information that comes with your prescription medication may provide instructions for disposal. If not, you can dispose of drugs using the following guidelines: 1) take the medication out of the container and mix it with an undesirable substance like coffee grounds or cat litter; 2) put the mixture in a sealable bag, empty coffee can, laundry detergent bottle, or another container that can be sealed and disposed of in the garbage. Only some medications should be flushed down the toilet and the United States Food and Drug Administration has a list of these drugs on its website.
What can we teach our children to ensure they do not become involved with prescription drugs?
Talking to your children about the issue can do a lot of good. Children are 50% less likely to abuse drugs when their parents talk to them about the risks, sadly, only 14% of teens say that their parents have talked to them about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs (according to the most recent Partnership Attitude Tracking Study). So take the opportunity to address the issue before it becomes a problem. Stressful events can trigger prescription drug abuse, so remind your kids of the dangers of abusing prescription drugs during times like exams or sports playoffs. If your child sustains an injury that requires prescription pain medication, be sure to monitor their usage closely as some pain pills have a risk for abuse and dependency. Work with your doctor and pharmacist to ensure the best treatment.
To learn more about medication safety, and how to prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse, visit www.AWARErx.org.
This post was written for social good. No compensation was received. All information and pictures used with permission.