Physicians urge households to add 'clean my medicine cabinet' to Spring cleaning chores list

After marijuana and alcohol, the most commonly abused drugs by those over the age of 14 are prescription and over-the-counter medications.

In fact, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse pointing to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Study conducted by the University of Michigan, the top pharmaceutical drugs of choice for 12th graders during the past year were Adderall and Vicodin. Adderall was abused by 6.8 percent of 12th graders, while Vicodin was 4.8 percent. According to the report, marijuana was at the top of the list at 35.1 percent.

Reports like this, and many others, all clearly indicate there is a growing epidemic in the United States, particularly around prescription drugs.

States like Pennsylvania have taken action. Last year, the Keystone State passed a law related to prescription drug monitoring to help crack down on doctor shoppers. In addition, with the help of organizations like the Pennsylvania Medical Society and Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians (PACEP), the state created opioid prescribing guidelines for physicians and other prescribers.

And, while that's a good start to address the issue of prescription drug abuse, physicians say families also play an important role, and it often begins with medicine cabinets.

"Sadly, medications sitting around the house can provide a temptation for other family members and house guests," says Karen Rizzo, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. "This has to be a team effort - medical experts, families, government, and communities. We all must play a role in fighting prescription drug abuse."

As such, physicians are urging households to add "clean my medicine cabinet" to the list of Spring cleaning chores.

"With the first day of Spring on March 20, there's no better time to think about spring cleaning, and the medicine cabinet should be the top of the list," says Michael Bohrn, MD, FACEP, president of PACEP. "We're only asking for a few minutes of time, and cleaning out a medicine cabinet won't take much time."

Through the Pennsylvania Health News Service Project, medical groups are asking households to get rid of medications that are no longer needed, and to drop them off at prescription drug take-back locations. In Pennsylvania, drop off locations have been sponsored by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) and are located throughout the state. A complete list of locations can be found online through the DDAP website.

"Pennsylvania physicians are declaring March 20 and the following week as Pennsylvania Medicine Cabinet Clean-up Week," says Pennsylvania Society of Oncology & Hematology's President, Margaret A. O'Grady, RN, MSN, OCN. "Take a few moments and walk through your house or apartment, looking for outdated medications that you no longer need."

According to the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (PAAAP), prescription drug abuse is growing among adolescents in Pennsylvania. "We know from state statistics that 13 percent of high school-aged children have abused opioid pain relievers, 6 percent tranquilizers, and 12 percent amphetamines such as Adderall and Ritalin," says Denise Salerno, MD, FAAP, vice president of PAAAP. "Every effort to address this abuse, including families disposing of medications no longer in use, helps in our battle against prescription drug abuse and protecting our communities."

DDAP says all pharmaceutical drugs that are being disposed through their drop-off locations need to be in sealed containers such as the original bottle or a zip-lock bag. Medications may not be disposed of loosely. Liquid pharmaceuticals should remain in the original container. And, personal information should be removed or blotted out with a permanent marker.

Drop off locations through DDAP will accept prescription and over-the-counter solid medications, tablets and capsules, liquid medications, inhalers, creams, ointments, nasal sprays, and pet medicines. Unfortunately, they are unable to accept intravenous solutions, injectables, and needles. The public should check with a selected drop off locations on other restrictions.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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