How to keep children safe from prescription medicine

properly disposing of unused prescription pills in coffee grounds 
With spring finally arriving, now is the perfect time to do some “spring cleaning” with your unused or expired prescription medications.  
 
In honor of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on April 24, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Bon Secours Mercy Health, as part of their strategic initiative Healthy State Alliance, have partnered together to raise awareness of the importance of safely disposing of your prescription medication.  
 
It’s fairly common for families to keep any remaining prescription medicine after use. While the reasons can vary from wanting to store them for at a later date to forgetting to dispose of the medication, parents don’t always fully understand the dangers of keeping prescription medicine.
 
What are the dangers?
 
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 4.9% of youth ages 12 to 17 have reported nonmedical use of prescription medication in the past year. Access to these drugs is often a result of prescription medication – especially pain medicine – being found in the medicine cabinets of family and friends.  
 
One of the best ways to keep your children safe from prescription medicine is to never bring it in the home and when necessary, dispose of it properly and quickly.
 
Many pharmacies and health systems, like The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and Bon Secours Mercy Health, are trying to make it easier for patients to dispose of any unused medication. This includes providing drug deactivation bags with any opioid prescription and exploring alternative options for pain management following surgery.
 
What can you do?
 
If you’ve received specific disposal instructions from your doctor or pharmacist for your unused or expired medicine, follow those instructions. To help keep your home safe, the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests: 
 
  • Put your medicines in a safe place so that others can't take them. You might want to lock them somewhere.
  • Get rid of medicines when you don't need them anymore. You can take them to your local "drug take back event.” 
  • Or mix the drugs with things like dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds and throw out in your trash. 
  • Flush the drugs down the toilet. The Federal Drug Administration has created a “flush list” of medications. These include drugs that are sought-after for their misuse and/or abuse potential, or that can result in death from one dose if inappropriately taken.
  • Keep track of cleaners, spray cans and other items in your house that people can inhale to get high. Keep these out of reach of children and young adults. 
Throughout the year, you can find a drug take back locations near you here. Additionally, through April 30, you can sign up to receive a free drug deactivation and disposal pouch mailed directly to your home.
 
Julie Teater is psychiatrist and medical director of addiction medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and an associate professor at The Ohio State College of Medicine. Carson Felkel is system medical director for behavioral health at Bon Secours Mercy Health.