Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions across the United States. More than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs and much of the abuse begins at home, according to a national survey on drug use and health. In fact, more than 70 percent of those who illegally use prescription pain relievers obtained them through friends or family, including surreptitiously raiding the home medicine cabinet. However, a recent study revealed that only 19 percent of parents are concerned about the misuse of narcotic pain medicines in their own families, showing that many do not recognize the severity of the problem.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids or narcotic pain medications. When used along with other prescription medications like benzodiazepines and muscle relaxers, they deliver a cocaine-like high. Abuse accounts for 84 percent of patient-related prescription drug fraud, according to research by Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager.
“Narcotic pain killers can be essential in the treatment of a variety of serious medical conditions; unfortunately they can also ruin lives when used improperly or abused,” says Jo-Ellen Abou Nader, senior director of Express Scripts’ Fraud, Waste and Abuse program. “Ending the national epidemic of prescription drug abuse demands constant vigilance and this includes proper storage and disposal of these medications.”
Abou Nader offers some simple do’s and don’ts you can follow at home to reduce the risk of drug fraud and abuse:
* Keep drugs out of reach: Be sure to store your medications in a locked area out of children’s reach. Ask your pharmacist if they can provide medication bottles with child-resistant caps.
* Keep track of your treatments: Keep a list of the medications in your home, especially those prone to abuse. Periodically count the medications remaining in the container and make sure that it’s the correct amount according to the prescribed dosage.
* Dispose properly: If specific disposal instructions are provided on the label, follow them. Otherwise, remove the medication from their original containers or vials, mix them with an undesirable substance such as used coffee grounds, kitty litter or saw dust and place them in a sealable bag that can be disposed in the trash. Also, people should take advantage of the next DEA Drug Take-Back Day on April 27.
* Make it easy: Don’t store narcotics or potentially addictive drugs in a medicine cabinet. If that is the only option, add a lock to the cabinet and hide the key.
* Save for next time: Once your condition has been treated and your prescription regimen complete, properly dispose of the drugs. Never keep extra medication for potential use in the future.
* Share your medicine: The specific drug and dosage was selected specifically for the person it was prescribed for and could lead to dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects if used by someone else.
By following these simple steps you can help protect your family and friends against the nation’s costly problem of prescription drug fraud and abuse. For more resources and information about prescription fraud and abuse, visit Express Scripts’ Healthcare Insights blog at lab.express-scripts.com.