Twice a year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) works with towns and cities nationwide to help consumers discard expired prescription drugs.
It’s been a big success. In fact, the DEA collected and destroyed more drugs during its April 2017 National Prescription Take Back Day than any of the past 12 events.
The next Take Back Day is Oct. 28. The DEA will again team up with agencies across the country to allow consumers to discard drugs safely, anonymously and without question at over 5,500 locations.
Keeping Families Safe
Imagine if only a fraction of the 450 tons of unused drugs gathered last April — some of it potentially deadly — had gotten into the wrong hands. Medication poisoning is more common than you might think. When it occurs, the most likely culprit is not a street-corner dope peddler, but the medicine cabinet or kitchen counters in your home.
A research report by Safe Kids Worldwide showed that a child goes to the ER for drug poisoning an average of once every eight minutes — 64,000 times each year. Three out of four of these visits are due to children taking their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine.
This isn’t just a problem for children. Unused prescriptions in the home can also tempt teens. A DEA report says that in 2013, 53 percent of kids 12 and older who used prescription drugs non-medically got them for free from a friend or relative.
You can see how parents and grandparents are often the first line of defense. If you’re one of them, you play an important role in keeping drugs away from children and young adults.
Storage: Up, Up and Away
Prescription drugs are more available today than at any other time. In 1980, 1.4 billion prescriptions were filled. By 2014, the total had more than tripled to 4 billion, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. That means it is more vital than ever to keep items like prescription drugs and vitamins out of the sight and reach of children.
Start by storing your meds up and away from children. That means higher than they can reach standing on a stool. And keep these additional storage and prevention tips in mind to help protect the whole family.
Caution overrules convenience: Studies show kids get into meds they find in cabinets, purses, nightstands, kitchen counters, floors and other spots around the home. In two-thirds of ER visits, medicine was left within reach of a child. Always keep it out of reach.
Dump out-of-date meds: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says you should never take expired meds. Over time, they become less effective and can even be harmful. If you don’t get rid of them, you might accidentally take an out-of-date drug.
Prevent spillage: If you use a pill organizer, fill it with care to avoid dropping a pill where a child might find it. And be sure to ask others in your home for help. Everyone should handle medicine with the same care you do and keep it in a safe place.
Be prepared: Post the Poison Control Center hotline number, 800-222-1222, in a central area of your home.
Take extra care each time you or a family member handles prescription drugs. It could prevent a tragedy.
Take advantage of Drug Take Back Day.
With the Oct. 28 Take Back Day right around the corner, this is an ideal time to review the contents of your medicine cabinet. Use the DEA’s search tool to search for a collection site near you. You can search by ZIP code or by city and state.
Sources: DEA Brings in Record Amount of Unused Prescription Drugs on National Prescription Take Back Day, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, 2017; Prescription for Disaster: How Teens Abuse Medicine, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2016; Every 8 Minutes a Child Goes to an Emergency Room for Medicine Poisoning, Safe Kids Worldwide, 2016