“We reach a national crisis of use when opioids get into the hands of people who they are not intended for. That puts the responsibility on the person who is prescribed opioids to use them properly, not share them with others, and discard leftovers appropriately.”
~Dr. Rabia Atayee, Pharm. D., BCPS, Associate Clinical Professor in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, San Diego
In 2014, 4395 California residents lost their lives to drug overdoses, more than any other state in the country, and a disproportionately large percentage of those deaths were due to prescription medications– opioid painkillers and benzodiazepine tranquilizers.
Between 2008 and 2012 alone, there were over 7000 fatal overdoses in California that were attributable to opioids.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than half of prescription opioid abusers did not get their drugs from their own prescription. Most frequently, they got the medication from a friend or family member, and never even had to pay for it.
This means they were either given someone else’s prescription or simply took it from their medicine cabinet.
The Importance of Keeping a Drug Inventory
Teenagers are particularly at risk when it comes to the abuse of prescription medications. According to a survey cited by the Foundation for a Drug-Free World:
- Each day, 2500 teenagers try a prescription painkiller for the first time.
- Half of all teenagers believe that prescriptions are safer than illicit street drugs.
- Up to 70% of teens who abuse prescriptions say that they got their drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinet.
The statistics underscore why it is so important to keep an accurate and regular inventory of all prescription drugs in the home. Parents need to know what drugs are present, how they should be taken, and how many are on hand at any given time. Depending upon the home circumstances, it may be even a good idea to keep all prescription medications under lock and key.
Why You Should Dispose of Prescription Medications Properly
Perhaps the best way to keep prescription opiates and benzodiazepines out of unintended hands is to properly dispose of any unused dosages. The emphasis should be on the word “properly”, because simply tossing them in the trash is not good enough.
There are two main schools of thought on how to do this –
FIRST, some people think that it is enough to simply get rid of the medications in a manner that makes them unable to be used. For example, before throwing them away, they can be mixed with some other substance that makes them unpalatable– bleach, soap powder, coffee grounds, etc.
ALTERNATELY, they can simply be flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain.
This is not the preferred method, because this means that the ingredients the medication may end up in the water supply, via the landfill or sewer system, because it is unclear whether or not water reclamation filter’s out such substances.
Whenever possible and practical, the SECOND method is recommended – taking advantage of San Diego’s “Take-Back” days and locations, which allow you to drop off any unused prescriptions so they can be properly and safely disposed of by professionals.
The San Diego Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force offers further information and tips, as well as participating law enforcement offices that serve as drop-off locations.
When you suspect that someone in your family may be abusing prescription medications, your best course of action is to get in touch with a professional at San Diego drug addiction recovery program, so that you can get your loved one the help and support they need.
Lasting Recovery – San Diego’s premier outpatient addiction treatment program – can provide that help and support. With education, counseling, and other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy, the clinical staff at Lasting Recovery helps the individual and their family heal from the disease of addiction on multiple levels, thereby maximizing the chances of a successful and long-lasting return to sobriety.