What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet? Prescription Drug Abuse Rampant in Arizona

Every household has medications, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC), many of them stacked on kitchen counters, side tables and, of course, in the medicine cabinet. This place that seems like such a natural fit for medications is a hidden danger in many homes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription drug abuse is the country’s fastest-growing drug problem and has reached “epidemic” proportions.
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In Arizona, parents are unwittingly exposing their children to potentially addictive prescription pills by not securing these medications in locked medicine cabinets or other tamper-free locations. The situation is so dire in Arizona that state public officials say more teens get high on prescription meds than on Ecstasy, cocaine and meth combined.

Data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) show that nonmedical use of painkillers in Arizona is at or among the highest in the nation.

In people ages 26 and older, the estimated annual average for nonmedical use of painkillers in Arizona is 4.02 percent. For ages 18-25, it’s 11.61 percent; youth ages 12-17 it’s 7.66 percent; and ages 12 and under it’s 5.40 percent.

In addition, seniors who may be taking multiple medications may be at risk for toxic drug interactions. They may take more than needed, forget what they’ve taken and double up, or not take them when they’re supposed to. Elderly individuals suffering from dementia or cognitive impairment may be more at risk for overdose and other prescription-drug complications when not taken properly.

In 2012, 14.8 percent of Arizona’s population were seniors (65 years and over), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Nationally, 13.7 percent of persons are 65 and over.

How to Safely Dispose of Prescription Medications

Flushing unwanted, expired or unused prescription medications down the toilet isn’t the best option. That method could result in drugs passing through sewage treatment facilities and septic tanks and into soils, groundwater and surface waters.

According to federal guidelines, there are safe and effective ways to dispose of prescription drugs:

  • Take all unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers.
  • Mix the prescription drugs with some substance considered undesirable, such as kitty litter or coffee grounds. Then put them in containers such as nondescript empty cans or sealable bags. This helps ensure that the drugs aren’t accidentally ingested by children or pets or diverted to anyone looking to score drugs.
  • Throw out the properly prepared containers (see above) in the trash.
  • Only flush prescription medication down the toilet if accompanying patient information on prescription drug containers indicates or specifically instructs disposal by this means.
  • Gather up all unused, unwanted, unneeded or expired prescription drugs and take them to pharmaceutical take-back locations to be disposed of safely.

Drug Take Back Event April 26

The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is April 26, 2014. This annual event has the specific goal of providing a safe, convenient and responsible way of disposing of prescription drugs. It is also an opportunity to educate the general public about the potential for medication abuse.

To find a collection site locally, go to the U.S. Department of Justice DEA Office of Diversion Control website and enter zip code or county, city and state.

Arizona residents can bring prescription drugs that are no longer needed, expired or unwanted to one of several prescription drug take-back events held statewide on Saturday, April 26, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For this event, bring the unused/unwanted prescription and OTC medications in their original containers. Disposal is anonymous. Medications will be placed into containers provided by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and local police. Law enforcement personnel will transport the disposed medications for proper destruction.

Phoenix-area collection sites include:

  • Phoenix Police Department – Desert Horizon Precinct police station
  • Paradise Valley Police Department
  • Scottsdale Police Department – Fashion Square Mall, NE mall entrance
  • Mesa Police Department – Central Patrol District
  • Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office – Fountain Hills Town Hall and MCSO Substation

In Tempe, the Tempe Police Department is partnering with the Arizona Drug Enforcement Administration and law enforcement agencies across the state. The anonymous disposal of unused and expired medications is available at the Tempe Police South Substation on 8201 S. Hardy Drive in Tempe.

Posted on April 15th, 2014
Posted in News

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