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Two-thirds of teens and young adults who report abuse of prescription medicine are getting it from friends, family and acquaintances. Make sure the young people in your life don’t have access to your medicine to begin with. Follow these three steps to find out how to monitor, secure and properly dispose of unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter cough medicine in your home.
Parents are in an influential position to immediately help reduce teen access to prescription medicine because medicine is commonly found in the home. But how aware are you of the quantities that are currently in your home? Think about this: Would you know if some of your pills were missing? From this day forward, make sure you can honestly answer yes.
Start by taking note of how many pills are in each of your prescription bottles or pill packets, and keep track of refills. This goes for your own medicine, as well as for your teens and other members of the household. If you find you need to refill your medicine more often than expected, that could indicate a problem.
If your teen has been prescribed a medicine, be sure you control the medicine, and monitor dosages and refills. You need to be especially vigilant with medicines that are known to be addictive and commonly abused by teens, such as opioids, benzodiazepines and stimulants.
Make sure your friends, parents of your teen’s friends, neighbors and relatives — especially grandparents — are also aware of the risks. Encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicines in their own homes.
Approach securing your prescriptions the same way you would other valuables in your home, like jewelry or cash. There’s no shame in helping protect those items, and the same holds true for your medicine.
Take prescription medicine out of the medicine cabinet and secure them in a place only you know about. As mentioned previously, if your teen has been prescribed a medicine, be sure you control the medicine and monitor dosages.
If possible, keep all medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter, in a safe place, such as a locked cabinet your teen cannot access. Spread the word to other households that teens may have access to, and encourage them to secure their prescriptions as well.
Safely disposing of expired or unused medicine is a critical step in helping to protect your teens, your family and home, and decrease the opportunity for your teens or their friends to abuse your medicine.
The ideal way to do this is by participating in a safe drug disposal program – either a drug take-back day, an ongoing program in your community, a drug deactivation bag, or a drug mail-back program. To find a take-back location or event near you, visit the American Medicine Chest Challenge or the DEA website.
Learn what safe drug disposal is, who should be involved in the development of a program, and ways to promote it to community members.
If none of these options are available to you, unused medicine can be disposed of at home as a last resort. Mix the medicine with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and discard. Unless the directions on the packaging say otherwise, do not flush medicine down the drain or toilet. To help prevent unauthorized refills, be sure to remove any personal, identifiable information from prescription bottles or pill packages before you throw them away.