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How to Properly Dispose of Medications

How to Properly Dispose of Medications
October 25, 2018

You have probably heard that doctors prescribe more addictive pain relievers than most children and adults need after surgery or to treat other severe pains. Strong, addictive pain relievers are controlled substances that required a printed paper prescription. This was to make sure your doctor or your child’s doctor was prescribing the medicine.

Most strong pain medicines last for 4 hours. Since there are 24 hours in a day; most doctors prescribe 20 to 30 pills or doses – a 3 to 5 day supply. We know that most acute pain lasts less than 3 to 5 days. We also know that most patients do not need strong pain medicines every 4 hours for 3 to 5 days. But if you or your child had a broken bone or were recovering from surgery, we knew it would be hard for you to come to the office or hospital more often than every 3 to 5 days. So doses and pills were left over. Until this decade, there was no legal way to get rid of those extra pills or doses!

What Has Changed?

According to U.S. Department of Justice, the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.

Why Should Medications Be Disposed of Properly?

Once medications are no longer needed they should be destroyed. Teens report that the most commonly used and addictive medications are easily found in the homes of friends and family members. Left over medications are also the most common source for accidental drug poisoning in children under 6 years of age.

We continue to advise parents to secure all currently needed medications in locked storage containers, out of sight and out of reach of children of all ages.

How Can I Dispose of Medications?

There are a few ways to properly dispose of no longer needed or expired medications. There are now drug take back programs across the U.S. Now some pharmacies can take back prescription drugs EVERY day. If your local pharmacy does not have a drug take back program, you can check with your local police department as some will often accept unused and expired medications. If you are unable to find a proper drop-off location, you can dispose of medications at home in your trash. The medicine should be mixed in a substance like cat litter or coffee grounds, place the mixture in a container (i.e. plastic bag), remove personal information on medication label and discard in household trash. Certain medications, like strong pain relievers and other addictive medications, can be disposed by flushing them down the toilet. For more information on those medications, visit the FDA’s website.

What Should You Do If Your Child Accidentally Ingests Medication?

If your child manages to swallow any quantity of unnecessary medicine, take immediate action and get him/her to the nearest emergency room (ER). If possible, bring the container or package of the ingested medication with you to the ER so medical professionals can access the dosage and quantity that was ingested and treat the child accordingly.

Wait – What About the Paperwork Problem?

At Lurie Children’s, we are encouraging our doctors and advanced practice nurses to prescribe controlled substances electronically! This will allow us to send home less controlled medications. If a child does for some rare reason need to be treated for 3 to 5 five days or longer, we can prescribe a limited supply of medications after a telehealth visit.

ChildKind International
Lurie Children’s is the seventh hospital in the world and first hospital in Chicago to be accredited as a ChildKind International organization. ChildKind International recognizes healthcare facilities that have developed standardized, institution-wide, collaborative approaches to the treatment of children’s pain.

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