The prescription drugs you have in your medicine cabinet can pose an unintended risk for your family. Lucille Zappitelli-Sason, MSN, CNP, a nurse practitioner with Lake County Family Practice, gives the scoop on the dangers prescription drugs (even expired and unused ones) can pose and shares crucial tips for protecting your family:
Overdoses on the rise
In 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of injury and death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes for the first time on record. The trend has continued.
On average, approximately 8 people in Ohio die every day due to unintentional drug overdose. This number continues to rise.
These statistics affect more than the drug user, their families and friends. They affect every Ohioan due to the annual cost of drug related accidents and deaths (odh.ohio.gov).
Why should you keep track of the prescriptions inside your home?
It’s crucial to keep track of your medications for many reasons. Whether they are prescription or over-the-counter medications, misuse can be just as dangerous as street drug use.
It’s dangerous to take medications your health care provider has not prescribed. They can cause:
- Possible adverse side effects, which can be lethal
- Accidental or unintended overdose
- Intended overdose
- Interactions with other medications and/or food.
Protect your family from prescription drug misuse
Controlled substances such as narcotics, opioids and sleeping aids must be locked away in a hidden place in your home to protect children, teens and any person who has access to your home. Don’t keep them in the family medicine cabinet where their access cannot be monitored 24/7.
Keep track of the number of pills you have left to ensure none are missing. This will help you detect misuse before it’s too late. And monitor your child’s prescription medications to ensure proper use and detect drug diversion.
Educate your children on appropriate medication use. Start with simple over-the-counter medications such as Advil, Tylenol and cold medicine. Help your child feel comfortable talking about common health ailments such as headaches and cold symptoms. That way you can decide on which medication and what dose to use together. Don’t instill a fear of medications in children and teens, but have open, honest conversations about safety and the potential harm that misuse can cause.
Find a drug take-back program for expired or unneeded prescription drugs. Call your city or county government or trash and recycling service for locations to return them for proper disposal. Don’t flush medications down the toilet or the drain unless the bottle specifically says it’s safe to do so (lockyourmeds.org).
What if you suspect your child or teen is misusing prescription drugs?
If you suspect your child or teen may be misusing prescription drugs, act now. Follow your instincts and act immediately, as your actions could be life-saving. Talk to your family health care provider about your concerns, especially if he or she is the one prescribing medications to your child. He/she can run an OARRS report which tracks controlled substance prescriptions filled by your teen. Your family’s health care provider can also talk privately with the teen about possible misuse and harm. You can help to detect misuse by monitoring medications in your home and paying close attention to changes in your child’s behavior and demeanor, changes in groups of friends or new hangout spots.