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How to Help Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

  • November 14, 2012
  • RPh on the Go

How to Help Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that approximately 7 million Americans took prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in 2010. The most commonly abused prescription drugs were pain relievers, to the tune of 5.1 million users, with tranquilizers coming in second at 2.2 million users.

Some communities are tackling the problem locally, like the leaders of Marion County, Oregon who started Drxugsafe. The information program is being led by the Marion County Children and Families Commission and the Marion County Public Safety Coordinating Council to create community awareness about prescription drug abuse and how it relates to heroin abuse and overdose.

With painkillers as the most commonly abused type of prescription drug, and opiates making up a majority of these drugs, Marion County has seen how abuse of oxycodone and Vicodin can lead users to the cheaper and easier to obtain street drug heroin. Kids who get hooked on heroin often started by sneaking prescription opiates from their parents’ medicine cabinets, and Drxugsafe aims to stop this practice by raising awareness of it.

How does Drxugsafe advise people to combat prescription drug abuse? The campaign promotes four basic principles:

  • Check your own medicine cabinet. Illness and injury can require painkillers to aid in your recovery, but how many of these pills remain in your medicine cabinet after you’ve healed?
  • Dispose of drugs safely. Pharmacies and police agencies can offer safe disposal of unused prescription drugs to keep them out of the hands of children and teens… and keep them out of the ground and water supply. Prescription drugs should never be flushed down the toilet, and throwing them in the garbage may only provide another opportunity for them to be abused.
  • Be engaged in your personal health care by discussing options with your physician. If your doctor or dentist wants to prescribe you an opiate, ask whether or not there are alternatives.
  • Supervise children and teens in your care. If you have prescription drugs in your home, be aware and don’t allow kids or teens the opportunity to sneak a pill. “Keep out of reach of children” is trickier when you have teenagers, but you can try to find an inconspicuous place to keep your pills that isn’t easily accessible.

Of course, kids sneaking pills out of their parents’ medicine cabinets aren’t the only ones at risk of prescription drug abuse. Adults who are prescribed opiates to treat an injury or illness can become addicted to them, fueling a need to continue using the drugs long after they are medically necessary.

In the pharmacy business, we can provide our customers with prescription drug abuse education similar to what they offer in Marion County.

  • Offer and promote a prescription drug disposal program to get unused pills out of your customers’ homes. Prominently display a poster or other visual materials warning against improper drug disposal.
  • Practice due diligence when it comes to filling prescriptions for controlled substances. Contact the prescribing physician if you have doubts. Refuse to fill a prescription for a controlled substance if you remain suspicious about its legitimacy. The DEA has specific criteria for identifying prescriptions that may not be for a legitimate medical purpose.

What has your pharmacy done to help stop prescription drug abuse? How have those actions gone over with the community?

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