With an aging population and advances in pharmaceutical sciences, medication use has increased significantly in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a given week, 86 percent of American adults and 56 percent of children use at least one medicine. And with the billions of pills sitting on shelves at home, the potential for injury or death from an unintended overdose is high.
Advocate Condell Medical Center Clinical Pharmacist Wenda Hunt has advice on medication safety that will keep prescription drugs out of the wrong hands. Hunt says think twice about where you keep your medication.
“Store your medication properly, away from children and away from pets,” Hunt said. “Though many people think the best place to store medication is in the bathroom, it’s safer to keep them in a kitchen cabinet. The location should be clean, dry and out of reach of younger children.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among children, unintended medication overdoses (rather than allergic reactions or side effects) are the most common cause of serious harm and lead to more than 70,000 emergency department visits every year. And though medication bottles come with child-resistant caps, Hunt says the caps only offer protection when fully locked down.
Once a doctor or health care professional advises ending the medication, the issue of proper disposal becomes essential. It takes a little effort, but Hunt says people need to take the time to ensure the medicine is tossed out properly.
“Take your unused medications and put them in an orange juice or milk jug, add some water, seal it securely with duct tape and put it in your regular trash,” Hunt said. “It’s essential that you take responsibility for your medications.”
The Food and Drug Administration recommends taking the medications out of their original containers and mixing them with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash. Put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
Hunt also says to check with your local household trash and recycling center to see if they offer a drop-off point for old medication.
The CDC has more information on this topic at cdc.gov/medicationsafety.
Information provided by Advocate Condell Medical Center.