Prescription drugs can seem like a mundane reality of receiving medical care, however, prescription drug use actually poses many risks. When used improperly, they can be a leading cause of major health concerns, including addiction and other life-threatening consequences. Family-Centered Services wants you to know that there are ways to properly use, store, and dispose of prescription drugs to protect yourself and your family. 

Addressing the Risks of Prescription Drugs

Many people find themselves in situations where they need to use prescription drugs to manage acute or chronic conditions. For example, after surgeries or injuries, you might be prescribed opioid pain medication. Not everyone who utilizes these medications will face addiction, but it is important to be very aware of the risk. 

When a doctor prescribes you a medication, they are assessing the costs and benefits of that medication when compared to the condition you are facing. You can be honest with your doctor about any substance abuse history you may have or any concerns you have regarding this issue. This can inform their decision about which drugs to prescribe and help to keep you safe. Additionally, sharing information about all the medications, supplements, or other drugs you use can prevent dangerous interactions.

How to Avoid Health Harms of Prescription Medications

If you are prescribed medication, it is vital to follow the exact instructions provided by your physician and pharmacist for your medication use. This means that you should only take the prescribed amount at the prescribed times. There are often directions given for what to do if you miss a dose. However, if there are no explicit instructions, do not assume that you can take that dose at any time or that you can double a dose. When in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist. 

Furthermore, if your medication is not effectively managing your pain or other condition, do not increase the dose on your own. Reach out to your health professional to learn about how your needs can better be met. In some situations, your doctor may decide to increase the dose. At other times, they may suggest a different medication or intervention. It is important for you to not assume the best course of action. 

Additionally, if you are feeling better, it is important to know the process for discontinuing the medication. There are some drugs that you can stop abruptly without issue, while other drugs need to be tapered. Some medications are intended to be taken for certain periods of time, while others are prescribed on an as-needed basis. If your provider did not give you a specific protocol to follow, ask them for instructions on how to discontinue your medication safely. 

Danger arises when people are prescribed medications for short-term use, yet they continue to use those drugs over long periods of time. Some people do this because they like the way the drug makes them feel or they feel unable to stop using it because of withdrawal symptoms. If you recognize the signs of dependency in yourself or your loved one, consult with the prescribing physician to find a solution.

Storage and Disposal of Medications

When you have prescription drugs in your home, handling and storing them safely is crucial for keeping those around you safe. The key is to never share your medications with other people. This is true even if you feel that someone needs that medication because they have the same symptoms or condition as you. 

Keep Medication in the Prescription Container

There are a few easy but important steps to storing prescription drugs safely. Keeping your medications in the original packaging with the directions for use can prevent mix-ups or mistakes. Putting medications into different containers or combining multiple medications in one container can open the floodgates for confusion and lead to incorrect dosing. This can also create the opportunity for others in your home to mistake powerful prescription drugs for something more benign like ibuprofen. 

Child-Proof Your Medication

Children are vulnerable to accidentally ingesting medication. In fact, according to the CDC, approximately 35,000 children present to the emergency room annually due to accidental exposure to medication. For this reason, child-proofing your medications should be a major consideration. You can do this by never leaving medications where a child can see or reach them. Moreover, take the time to put medication away properly each time. Properly close the bottle and store it where children cannot access it. Adding a lock to that cabinet offers an extra level of protection.

Properly Dispose Medications That Are No Longer Needed

You may find yourself in a situation where you have leftover prescription medication that is expired or that you no longer need. In this situation, safe disposal is essential. Simply throwing the medication away is not a safe practice. Your doctor or pharmacist may have provided you with details on how to properly dispose of your specific medication. If this is not the case, the next best thing to do in this scenario is to check for your nearest “drug take-back” location. You might be able to find these at pharmacies, hospitals, or police stations.

If you are not able to locate a nearby drug take-back location or if it is not feasible for you to bring your medications there, you can check if the medications you have are on the FDA’s “flush” list. Medications on this list can be flushed down your toilet to avoid other people either accidentally or intentionally ingesting them. Some of the drugs on the flush list include:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Meperidine
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Tapentadol

Taking the precautions listed here can help prevent the pain of addiction. Unfortunately, substance abuse can still arise when strong substances like opioids are involved. Family-Centered Services is dedicated to your family’s recovery if prescription drug misuse becomes an issue. 

Prescription drugs are used to manage many different health conditions, and it is possible that you or someone you love might need to take one at some point. It is important to take the appropriate precautions in this situation to keep yourself and your family safe. In addition to being toxic if taken in the wrong dose or by the wrong person, certain drugs carry the risk of leading to addiction. Addiction is a slippery slope, and it can get serious before you even realize it’s happening. Family-Centered Services is here to support your and your loved ones in the journey of recovery from substance abuse. Learn more about our approach to your wellness by calling (509) 991-5822 today.