Important Drug Facts

What should I do if medicine goes missing from my medicine cabinet?

According to the PartnershipTM for Drug-Free Kids, two-thirds of teens who report abuse of prescription medicine are getting them from friends, family and acquaintances. Because medicines can be found in medicine cabinets, top of dressers, and kitchen cabinets, take steps to ensure that all medications are monitored and secured. Properly dispose of unused and expired prescriptions and Over-The-Counter (OTC) drugs in your home.

Monitor - Take note of how many pills are in each of your prescription bottles or pill packets. Keep track of refills. If you find you need to refill your medicine more often than expected, that could indicate a problem. Be especially vigilant with medicines that are known to be addictive. Make sure your friends and relatives are also aware of the risks.

Secure - Be proactive about securing prescriptions the same way you would other valuables in your home. Take prescription medicine out of the medicine cabinet and secure them in a place only you know about. If possible, keep all medicines in a safe place, such as a locked cabinet.

Dispose - Safely dispose of expired or unused medicine. Take an inventory of all the medicine in your home. Start by discarding expired and unused Rx and OTC medicine. Participate in a safe drug disposal program. Find the center nearest you and dispose of your medicine properly.  Or find out about upcoming drug take-back day facilitated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

If you do suspect that medicine is missing, here are some ways to get the conversation started with your family. 

Are Over-The-Counter (OTC) drugs dangerous?

All drugs, regardless of whether they are illegal, prescription or over-the-counter (available without a prescription), change your body and can be potentially harmful. Some over-the-counter drugs can cause serious problems or even death if used incorrectly. The only safe way to take any over-the-counter medication is exactly as directed and for the specific problem for which it is intended.

The health risks of abusing OTC cough and cold remedies include: impaired judgement, nausea, loss of coordination, headache, vomiting, loss of consciousness, numbness, stomach pain, irregular heartbeat, seizures, panic attacks, cold flashes, dizziness, diarrhea, addiction, restlessness, insomnia, high blood pressure, coma, and death. Like any other drug, overdoes from over-the-counter medication can occur.

Get the facts. Read: DrugFacts: Prescription and Over the Counter Medications.

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How do I safely dispose of expired drugs and medication in my medicine cabinet?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following: 

Drug Disposal Guidelines and Locations

The following guidelines were developed to encourage the proper disposal of medicines and help reduce harm from accidental exposure or intentional misuse after they are no longer needed.

  • Follow any specific disposal instructions on the prescription drug labeling or patient information that accompanies the medicine. Do not flush medicines down the sink or toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.
  • Take advantage of programs that allow the public to take unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your local law enforcement agencies to see if they sponsor medicine take-back programs in your community. Contact your city or county government's household trash and recycling service to learn about medication disposal options and guidelines for your area.
  • Transfer unused medicines to collectors registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Authorized sites may be retail, hospital or clinic pharmacies, and law enforcement locations. Some offer mail-back programs or collection receptacles ("drop boxes"). Visit the DEA's website or call 1-800-882-9539 for more information and to find an authorized collector in your community. 

For more information on FDA guidelines, click here.

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