The Problem

Prescription medication plays an important role in our society, helping to treat diseases from the common to the complex, and increasing the quality of life for our family members, friends and neighbors. But prescription medication should be taken, used and disposed of with care.

 

Prescription Drug Abuse & Diversion

When prescription medications are taken and used as prescribed, they help treat diseases from the common to the complex and increase the quality of our lives and those of our family members, friends and neighbors.

But when medicines are abused, they put people at risk for addiction, injury and even death.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing concern in the U.S. About 15.3 million people aged 12 or older used prescription drugs non-medically in the past year, and 6.5 million did so in the past month, according to results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

According to the Partnership at Drug Free:

  • Nearly

    25%

    of teens report abusing or misusing a prescription drug at least once in their life.

  • 1/3

    of teens believe it is OK to take a prescription drug without a prescription for an injury or to deal with pain.

  • 73%

    of teens say it is easy to access prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinet.

These numbers underscore not only the problem of prescription drug abuse, but also the critical importance of proper handling and storage of prescription medication. 

Medication Adherence

Studies have shown that many people aren’t taking medicines as prescribed and directed by their doctors. Research by the National Community Pharmacists Association showed that, in 2006, almost 75% of adults did not take their prescription medicines as directed, whether by not filling a new prescription, taking less than the prescribed dose or discontinuing the medicine without notifying the doctor.

It is important to only take a medicine as prescribed and to follow the label for correct dosage.

If medicines were taken as prescribed, we would have not only fewer instances of drug abuse and diversion, but also better health outcomes and lower health care costs, including the following:

  • Fewer Hospitalizations: Proper adherence is directly associated with decreased hospitalizations, nursing home admissions and physician visits. 
  • Disease Prevention: Patients who do not take their medications as directed are more likely to develop additional conditions.
  • Less Adverse Events: Providing counseling to patients to clarify their medication regimen following hospital discharge can dramatically reduce the likelihood of adverse drug events.

Secure Storage

Many people use their bathroom medicine cabinet as the preferred storage spot for their medications. It may even be yours. But there may be a risk of exposing your medicine to heat and moisture, which could affect its ingredients. Pay close attention to the directions for storage on the prescription insert provided by your pharmacist and, when in doubt, store your medicine in a cool, dry place.

It is also important to store medications securely to prevent accidental ingestion or misuse. When medicines are misused or fall into the wrong hands, it can be the result of medications not being properly stored. Keep your medicines away from the reach of children, teenagers and pets to avoid accidental ingestion, as well as to prevent use of these medicines by anyone other than the person for whom they were prescribed.

When taking prescription medication, always follow the recommended dosage instructions and finish the medication unless otherwise directed by a physician. When medications are taken correctly, there is less medicine lying around in our homes to become a potential threat.

Accidental Poisoning & Ingestion

Drug abuse and drug diversion aren’t the only ways prescription medication falls into the wrong hands. As the number of adults using prescription medications has increased, so has the number of children being accidentally poisoned by medications. This is most commonly the result of medications not being properly stored or kept away from youngsters who are actively exploring their new environments.

 In 2011, The Journal of Pediatrics found that 55 percent of child-related calls to poison centers from emergency departments were a result of a child getting into prescription medications.

Medical Privacy

Many people don’t think twice before throwing medicine away in its original container and with personal information intact. Disposing of your medications without taking precautions to protect your personal information, can result in a breach of your medical privacy and can contribute to drug diversion. You should always remove or scratch off prescription information before disposing of containers or packaging.

 

Environmental Concerns

When medicines pass through the body without being fully metabolized they are excreted from our system. The result of this natural human process is that trace amounts of pharmaceutical ingredients have been found in our surface water. However, these trace amounts are very small and are measured in parts per trillion, placing them well below the thresholds that would pose a risk to humans or the environment. To date, scientific studies have not indicated any appreciable risk to human health.

That said, it is still important that we do our part to help protect our environment to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals in the wastewater whenever possible.  

Learn about how to protect yourself and your family through secure storage and drug disposal.