Chicopee, MA: What's in your medicine cabinet?
CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) - Prescription drug abuse is a common problem among today's teens, but one organization is aiming to change that. Dr. David John, spokesman for the American College for Emergency Physicians, talks about the American Medicine Chest Challenge.
- Take inventory
- Lock your medicine cabinet
- Get rid of old medications
- Take medications as prescribed
- Talk to your children
On November 13th, you are supposed to go to your medicine cabinet or cabinets and look through all your prescription and nonprescription medications and take an inventory of those things that you actually need and are using. You should also, while you're doing that, put aside all the medications that you no longer use, half-filled prescriptions, things from the 1980s, but that also includes over-the-counter medications. Many over-the-counter medications can cause problems, especially with young children. After you have gone through your inventory, you know what you have, you have it written down, you should lock the medicine cabinet because only you or the people that you share it with should really have access to the cabinet, not children or passersby or people working on your house or breaking into your house.
The other thing that it brings up is that you really should be taking the prescriptions the way they are prescribed. We talked earlier about the fact that even over-the-counter medications have a therapeutic index. If you exceed that, you get into toxic ranges. Everything from liver failure to addiction and so on and so forth if you use them the wrong way.
If you exceed that, you run into toxicity. With acetamniofen it can run into kidney failure. Sometimes it's an impulse I have teenagers and the boyfriend broke up with them and they got into the medicine cabinet and took whatever. Prescription drugs are second only to marijuana in terms of abuse and it usually is the young teen population, surprisingly young females. A lot you talk for anxiety and there's medications you take for depression and there's pain medications. I can't tell you how many people come to the emergency department with things that can't measure there for pain medications and pain medications alone. Fortunately for us in the computer era, I can find out they filled that same prescription six times that week from other emergency departments or primary care physicians.
There are five steps to the American Medicine Chest Challenge. The first one, you want to take an inventory of your prescriptions. Actually go through your medicine cabinet and write down on a piece of paper what's going on.
Say what is this for. Then once you have done all of that, lock your medicine cabinet.
When you go through and you have gotten rid of your old medications, what do you do with those? Can you take the old prescription medications, the old over-the-counter decongestants and take the box and throw them in the trash?
Some people flush them down the toilet and the FDA is involved in this push to empty your medicine cabinet as well because they don't want hormonal drugs, drugs that may affect fish and wildlife going down the toilet. What you do with them is you bring them to one of the American Medicine Chest Challenge drop-off sites. If you don't have a site nearby or can't get to one, essentially what you do is you dump the pills into a plastic zip-loc baggie. You take them and try to take your labels off the prescriptions so they can't be refilled. You put something unpallatable in the bag with it. They suggest coffee grounds or kitty litter. At the end of the process, you add a little bit of water to melt them. They are not identifiable or useable again and then put them in the trash.
That's the best way to get rid of these prescription and over-the-counter drugs so no one else can abuse them. Also you have to make sure that you talk to your teenagers about the dangers of these prescription drugs. What's the easiest way to start that conversation with your teen?
I think on Saturday, as you are emptying the medicine cabinet, if you have teenagers or young children around, explain the dangers of using medications that are not prescribed for you and also talk about things like addiction. It's easy for me because I see these people every day and so my girls that are now successful and grown up, heard about it every night, about the people that I was taking care of with drug addiction, alcohol addiction, abusive medications. I think just opening up the dialogue and getting kind of a sort of what you do when you talk to your kids about alcohol. I will drive you home if you get drunk and I won't yell at you, but don't take the car and don't get in the car with somebody that's intoxicated. Just opening the dialogue is critical. Also explaining that not only prescribed drugs but over-the-counter medications have toxicities.
For more information on the American Medicine Chest Challenge, you can visit their website,AmericanMedicineChest.com .