At-Home Safety: Emergency Physicians Urge Americans to Take the Nov. 13 Medicine Chest Challenge

Nov. 9, 2010
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), a national sponsor of the Nov. 13 American Medicine Chest Challenge, is educating the public about safe disposal of expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications in order to reduce the threat of drug abuse by children.

Seventy percent of people who abuse prescription pain relievers indicated they got them from friends or relatives. A recent survey showed one in nine children are abusing prescription pain relievers, according to ACEP.

“Emergency physicians see first-hand the dangers of prescription drug abuse, which is why we recommend that everyone take stock of the medicines in their homes,” said ACEP president, Sandra Schneider, MD, FACEP. “Prescription drugs are the most abused drugs in America other than marijuana, and parents are the first line of defense between kids and the prescription medications. If you don’t need the medicines in your medicine chest, then your kids don’t need them either.”

The American Medicine Chest Challenge will take place Nov. 13 in communities across the country. This initiative challenges Americans to take these five steps:

  1. Take inventory of your prescription and over-the-counter medicine.
  2. Lock your medicine chest.
  3. Dispose of unused, unwanted and expired medicines at an American Medicine Chest Challenge Disposal site (see a list of collection sites).
  4. Take medicine(s) exactly as prescribed.
  5. Talk to your children about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

In areas without an American Medicine Chest Challenge disposal site, people should follow federal guidelines for safe disposal of prescription medications:

  1. Take prescription drugs out of their original containers.
  2. Mix drugs with an unappealing substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
  3. Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
  4. Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape or by scratching it off.
  5. Place the sealed container with the mixture and the empty drug containers in the trash.

“Parents also need to be award of the threat of accidental poisonings of children, which is another great reason to take stock of what’s in your medicine chest and around your house,” said Schneider.

A study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine in 2008 reported that nearly 10,000 very young children accidentally ingested opiates prescribed for adults in their household between 2003 and 2006.

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