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5 keys to protect from prescription drug abuse

July 31, 2015 at midnight


Modern medicines can be very beneficial when used appropriately, but they have a dark side.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, "Every day, 44 people in the U.S. die from overdose of prescription painkillers, and many more become addicted."

This represents more deaths than marijuana, heroin and cocaine combined. The main painkiller culprits are opioids, including hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g. OxyContin), Oxymorphone (e.g. Opana) and Methadone.

Despite this veritable epidemic, few people realize the scope of the prescription drug problem. In a recent community needs assessment study conducted by the Coalition for Drug-Free Youth in Longview, Texas, sixty one percent of respondents believed prescription drug misuse is a problem for those ages 26-65.

The true story?

Rxsafetymatters.org said a 2013 survey found, “Almost 1 in every 4 teens in America say they have misused or abused a prescription drug.”

It's a difficult problem to address, but there are some things you can do to safeguard your home and family against this silent epidemic. Implement these strategies today because you might save a family member's life.

1) Explore other pain relief options

When possible, it’s best to keep powerful painkillers out of the house altogether. The CDC has found that “since 1999, the amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report.” If your doctor offers you a strong painkiller prescription, find out if there are other options you can explore first.

2) Store prescriptions in locked cupboards

When you need to keep prescription painkillers in the house, make sure they’re in a secure, preferably locked, location. Whether this is a locked medicine cabinet or a small standalone safe is up to you. However, you’ll want to be sure to keep the location of the key or the access code secure as well.

3) Keep an inventory of all medicines

Whether the medicines in your cabinet are prescription or not, it’s a good idea to keep track of how much you have left of each and how often you need to buy refills. Drugabuse.gov warns that even over-the-counter drugs such as sleep aids and cold medicines can pose addiction and health risks when taken in higher quantities or more frequently than recommended.

Count pills in prescription bottles or keep track of what day they should run out. Bubble packets make keeping track of prescription drug use easier because you can count more easily and see when extra pills go missing. Find out from your pharmacist whether your medicine is available in bubble packet form.

4) Dispose of unused prescriptions properly

When you don’t end up using all of your prescription or they expire before they’re used up, make sure you dispose of them safely. Each location listed does have rules and guidelines that need to be followed when disposing of medications. The following are local options:

• For those who need to dispose of medication in pill form there is a drop box in the Longview Police Station Lobby, at 302 W. Cotton St. More than 140 pounds of prescription medications were collected from the drop box in last four months alone.

• For those who need to dispose of syringes, local fire departments are equipped to handle these materials.

• If you still aren’t sure of where to take your unused prescriptions or have any questions about what you can leave at each individual location contact Linda Roberts, 903-237-1068 or Heidi Nance, 903-237-1131, of the Longview Police Department. They can help to make sure that your medications are disposed of properly.

5) Talk to your kids about prescription drug use and abuse

You might talk to your kids about the dangers of street drug abuse, but have you ever told them that “good” drugs prescribed by a doctor can be just as dangerous? Make sure you have that conversation with them, explaining that prescription drugs are meant only for a designated person at a certain time in specific quantities, and that they should never use a friend or family member’s prescription medicines with or without that person’s consent.

Think your kids would never even consider prescription drug abuse? Think again.

Community Drug Alert magazine pointed out, “’Good’ kids are, if anything, more likely to abuse prescription drugs.”

The magazine suggested this scenario: “Imagine you have a daughter who is a straight A student and who is planning to become a lawyer ... if she thinks she can escape from the pressure of studying and exams by borrowing some pills from mom and dad, what’s the harm?”

Find out more about what you can do to prevent prescription drug abuse in your home and community by visiting the Longview Partners in Prevention website.

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