On April 27, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will be running a national drug take-back day. It is an opportunity for everyone to safely remove unwanted, unused, or expired medication from medicine cabinets. The program is free and anonymous, and drop-off locations will be established in hundreds of communities across every state in the country.
The need to remove medication from the home has never been greater. Police say a vast majority of heroin and other narcotics addicts start their addictive behavior by abusing prescription pain medication. Today 2,700 teens will abuse a prescription drug for the first time. They join the nearly 7 million Ame! ricans who already abuse prescription medications.
Amy Tiemeier, Pharm.D., assistant professor and director of professional affairs at St. Louis College of Pharmacy has been at the forefront of the St. Louis Medication Disposal Initiative. She has been a practicing pharmacist for more than a decade. She is also vice president of Missouri P2D2, a non-profit organization which establishes permanent medication collection boxes in police stations. Tiemeier is featured in a video about the St. Louis Medication Disposal Initiative here.
Some of the advice from Amy Tiemeier include:
“Medication abuse often starts with teens stealing from the homes of family and friends. Unfortunately, those medications act as a gateway to narcotics like heroin or cocaine. Removing unwanted medications from your home helps protect not only your family, but the entire community. There’s a mistaken belief among teens that because a medication is prescribed or is available over-the-counter, it is safer than street drugs.”
On handling medications with the potential for abuse:
“If patients are concerned about medications falling into the wrong hands, lock it in a drawer or keep it with you at all times. Once out of sight, it’s easy to forget the next dose. To remember to take your medication, set an appointment on the calendar of your phone or leave a note on the front door or refrigerator.”
On importance of spring cleaning for your medicine cabinet:
“It is important to clean! out your medicine cabinet regularly because the potency of medicine can change. It could be ineffective and delay a person getting appropriate treatment. A few medications become toxic and can be very harmful if taken after they have expired.”
Why you should never flush medications down the drain:
“The water treatment system was never designed to screen out active ingredients in medication. Those ingredients eventually go into the public waterways and can have serious environmental impacts on both wildlife and humans.”
Additionally, a study by the Associate! d Press found traces of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water of 46 million Americans.
Where to store your medication:
“One of the worst places to store medication is in the bathroom. The heat and high humidity can affect medication. The kitchen is also a bad place for the same reasons. Plus, many medications are sensitive to light. Instead, put medication on a high shelf where it is out of the reach of children.”
On keeping children safe:
“Just letting family members know how easy it is for children to get into medicines, whether they have child safety caps or not, is important. They should know that child safety caps are not intended to keep children from getting into the medication but rather delay them from getting into the bottle by about 10 minutes. Plus, many medications look like candy, which makes them even more appealing for children to want to try.”
The usefulness of expiration dates:
“The expiration date on medicines should not be ignored. That is the date the manufacturer guarantees effectiveness when stored under ideal conditions. If medicines have been kept in the bathroom, the medications could be less effective! . In general, it is a good practice to dispose of prescription medications a year after it was filled or sooner if noted on the bottle.”