Medicine cabinets tend to be proverbial dumping grounds for old, unused and long forgotten medications. As parents, friends and family members, we’re consistently reminded to keep our medications out of sight and reach. However, this step is mainly meant to keep small children safe. In reality, young children are in danger of unintentional poisoning, but are not the only ones in danger – adolescents and adults are also at risk if they have access to unsupervised medicine cabinets. Reports indicate that thousands of teens use prescription drugs intended for someone else every day. You can take steps to prevent poisoning, theft and abuse by managing your medicine cabinet.
Consider the Dangers
Reduce unfortunate situations with prescription and over the counter drugs by protecting them at all costs. Be mindful of situations that could lead to diversion, misuse, abuse and even overdose. Social occasions, real estate open houses, garage sales, children visiting your home, these are all instances when medications may be sought out and stolen. Unfortunately, the effects of taking these drugs may be worse than the individual realizes. This is a real problem in our community, and it will continue to grow if medications are not stored properly.
Managing your medicine cabinet can be accomplished in three simple steps.
- Monitor – Know what meds are in your home. Keep the medications in their original containers, inventory all prescriptions and over the counter medications and know the quantities.
- Secure – Lock up your medications. Store them in a combination safe, a locked cabinet or locked drawer. Prescriptions drugs and over the counter medications are the source of unintentional poisoning, theft and abuse because they are easily accessible.
- Dispose– Safely dispose of all expired and unused medications. Safe medication disposal can mean bringing your unused medications supplies to a “drop-off” site such as a local police department. Watch for community drug take-back programs in your area that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. As a last resort you can dispose of these substances by making them less appealing. For example, mix the prescription with hot water to dissolve and add them to an undesirable substance such as coffee grounds or kitty litter before throwing them away. Visit altru.org/drugdisposal for more information on safe disposal.
When you have decided it’s time to manage your medicine cabinet, think one step further and consider other areas where unused medications may be hiding.
Getting in the habit of routinely reviewing your medications, properly disposing of unused and unwanted drugs, keeping your medications organized, locked, secured and out of reach of young children are effective ways to help you and your family stay safe.