Several years ago, we wrote a column for “Get Smart – Pass It On” addressing the importance of safely disposing of expired or unused prescription drugs. At that time, the primary concern was that unused drugs, especially opioids, could fall into the hands of young, curious children who could be accidentally poisoned, or in homes with multiple generations, older family members might be confused about what drugs they should be taking. In addition, the leading cause of pet poisonings is the accidental ingestion of human medications.
Since then, the public and political dialog has changed. With the opioid crisis hitting families hard in Connecticut and across the country, it has become increasingly clear that undisposed opioids have contributed significantly to the crisis.
In any family where there has been a serious fall, illness, surgery or cancer treatment, you are likely to find unused and expired drugs in the bathroom medicine cabinet. We’ve all done it. We forget they are there, we think we might need them again, we are no longer covered by health insurance and are hoarding medications, “just in case,” or because we think someone else might need them someday.
Unfortunately, prescription drugs have become the target of theft and misuse. America’s 12 to 17 year olds have made prescription drugs the number one substance of abuse for their age group, and much of that supply is unwittingly coming from the medicine cabinets of their parents, grandparents and friends. Our medicine cabinets have become the number one drug dealer for many teenagers.
Unused opioids are often discovered by curious teenagers who may assume that if they are “medication,” they might get high, but they won’t become addicted. No one makes a decision to become an opioid addict. But families unwittingly contribute to the problem by leaving opioids easily available.
Here are some ways that you can protect your family from accidental or improper drug use:
- Find out when your town is hosting a Drug Take-Back Event.
Many towns organize a drug take-back day to help people safely dispose of unused medications. Call your local police department to find out when the next event is. When you learn the date and location, let your friends, family and neighbors know – you can multiply your efforts by organizing and teaching them the importance of safe drug disposal!
- Visit our website to see if your local police department has a Drug Drop Box.
You can be assured that the unused drugs you bring in will be destroyed in a legal manner. The advantage to using a police department’s drop box is that there is no chance that an unauthorized individual will be able to access or steal the drugs. If your town does not have a drop box, let your police department know that you think it’s an important service to offer to your community. Let others know to call and encourage them as well.
Learn how to safely dispose of medications at home
Properly disposing of unused and expired medications is crucial to stemming the opioid crisis. Educating the young people in your life about the dangers of prescription drug misuse and its serious consequences can save their lives and the lives of people they know.
Remember, get smart, and pass it on to family members, neighbors and friends!
For a list of medications and the best methods of disposal, please see the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s Prescription Monitoring Program at ct.gov/dcp/pmp. You can also check on our site (www.dcp.gov) to see if your town participates in the Drop-Box program, or when they may be sponsoring a Drug Take-Back day.
This article was written by Jonathan A. Harris, Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.