Did you know that 70,980 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that figure, citing over 194 drug-related deaths in the U.S. every day last year. And unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the dangers posed by misuse or abuse of drugs in the home. Beyond the fact that the pandemic has temporarily closed resources such as drug drop-box sites and take-back day events, opioid and other drug misuse risks have also increased due to financial and emotional stressors such as isolation and unemployment.
Any medications in the home carry the risk of someone misusing them, whether accidentally or on purpose. According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 92% of post-surgical prescriptions went unused, making them available for potential misuse. And according to a Journal of the American Medical Association study, over 60% of people with leftover prescription opioids kept pills for future use rather than disposing of them, with one in five admitting they shared medication with someone else.
How can you help prevent drug misuse? Here are tips to keep your home safer for everyone.
1. Store medicines securely
While many store medications in a medicine cabinet, humidity levels in a bathroom can actually break down medications, making them less effective. In addition, storing meds in a medicine cabinet makes them susceptible to theft by anyone entering your home looking for drugs. Storing prescription medications in a bedside table may also seem convenient, but again leaves them open for misuse or abuse.
This is especially true if you have children living in or frequently visiting your home, it’s best to keep all medications — including vitamins — in a high cabinet and secured out of harm’s way.
2. Discard medications safely
Go through prescription and over-the-counter medications regularly to identify leftover or expired medicines. This helps prevent accidental or purposeful misuse, which protects your entire family.
To safely dispose of medicines, the Deterra® Drug Deactivation System is a medication disposal pouch or container that can be used at home. It is the safest, most effective way to irreversibly destroy and properly dispose of unused, unwanted and expired medications in minutes, with the simple addition of tap water. Deterra is the only product available today that is scientifically proven to deactivate prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including addictive opioids. Deterra’s plant-based packaging, with non-toxic ingredients, also helps prevent harmful chemicals from entering landfills and water supplies.
3. Keep poison control information handy
Post the contact information for Poison Control where everyone can see it, like on your refrigerator door. Access Poison Control online at www.poison.org or by calling 1-800-222-1222.
4. Don’t call medications “candy”
If someone in your family takes medicine or vitamins, never refer to it as “candy” to convince the child to take it or to explain why you’re taking it. This could make the child more likely to try taking pills that they find.
5. Don’t share prescriptions
You may think you’re doing a friend or relative a favor by sharing pills from a leftover pain prescription but that medication was prescribed to you by a healthcare provider for a specific purpose, with knowledge of your health condition and other medications you take. You may not be aware of potentially harmful drug interactions or side effects your friend could experience by taking your medication. Stay safe by disposing of unused medications as soon as you no longer need to take them.
This October, in honor of Substance Abuse Prevention Month, Deterra is giving away free drug deactivation pouches with their nonprofit partner SAFE (Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic) Project. Sign up now to receive your free Deterra Pouch at DeterraSystem.com/SAFE and make your home safer.