When you open your medicine cabinet, what do you see? A toothbrush, some toothpaste; that bottle of Oxycodone from 2003 when you had surgery on a slipped disk, or maybe a few Xanax left over from a bout of anxiety after relocating for a new job three years ago? According to the Mayo Clinic, that describes about 70 percent of America’s medicine cabinets. For most, the pill bottles disappear each time you open the cabinet when reach for your toothbrush, but for a recovering addict, or anyone with an addictive personality, it could be an everyday struggle to stay sober.
There are countless factors that lead to prescription drug abuse. No one decides to become addicted when they swallow their first Vicodin. “It’s clear that some people have a genetic predisposition to addiction,” says Andrew Saxon, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the addiction psychiatry residency program at the University of Washington. “There’s something different in their brains to begin with, and prolonged drug abuse likely creates further chemical changes”, Saxon explains. When a person possesses vulnerability for drug abuse, prescription medications can begin a dangerous cycle where the brain constantly craves the intoxicating rush they produce. Opioids, the most commonly abused type of pharmaceutical, along with most prescription drugs, target and stimulate the area of the brain that perceives pleasure. This results in a sense of euphoria or feeling of well-being. For those with an addictive nature, the rush seems greater than the risk.
With prescription drug abuse on the rise in both adults and youths, proper disposal has never been more important. For many, neglect to dispose of leftover medications is not intentional. Instead, it results as a lack of proper education about the importance. Somewhere between the initial doctor’s visit and the trip home from the pharmacy, there is a void of knowledge being relayed. To help combat the growing trend of prescription drug abuse, we’ve composed a list that has made it easier than ever to properly dispose of your unused medications. Here are the top three ways to dispose prescription drugs:
- 1. Check out the label. Most prescriptions will come with instructions for disposal right on the label. Never flush pills or drop them down the sink unless specifically instructed to do so. One study in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry revealed that more than 100 chemical compounds were found in samples taken in surface and groundwater throughout the United States. Scientists have frighteningly admitted that, as of now, the effects that this contamination will have on humans, plants, and animals, is still unknown.
- 2. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. On April 26th, 2014, nationwide law enforcement agencies will be hosting convenient collection sites where you can bring any unused prescription drugs to be properly destroyed. Many neighborhood pharmacies are offering a similar program year round, as well. Using a specialized tamper-resistant envelope, you are able to drop the package at any USPS location and the medications will be sent to an incineration facility where law enforcement is on location to ensure proper disposal. To learn more, please visit the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control‘s website.
- 3. Properly dispose in the garbage. While it is not the preferred method, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has laid out some easy-to-follow steps for disposing medications at home as well. First and foremost, keep the medication in its original container. In case of accidental ingestion by a child or pet, it is always important to know the substance. Second, scratch off or mark out your name and the prescription number. Next, add water to the container to dissolve the pills. Secure the lid with duct tape or packing tape and place the entire bottle in a larger opaque container. Tape the lid of the second container closed. Finally, dispose of the medication in the garbage.
Raising awareness is the first step against in the battle of Prescription Drug Abuse. Medicine plays a significant role in treating many ailments and conditions, however when no longer needed may become a catalyst for addictive behavior. Step up and play your part by making a commitment to properly dispose of your prescription medication and ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.