What Can I Do to Help Combat the Opioid Crisis?

Story by Hanna Wensman

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over 60,000 young children each year will be taken to the Emergency room from accidental ingestion of prescription medications.  Safe storage of medication protects yourself from theft, as well as protecting friends and loved ones from potential overdose and death. 

The first step is to take precautions to store your prescription medications out of view of young children and young teens.  But, for better results, your safety efforts should not stop there. The next best option is to keep your prescriptions in a locked, secure box. Keeping your prescription medications in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom is no longer the safest option.  This is because anyone can see what is available. An example of this is family friends knowing you recently had a surgery for which you were prescribed pain killers to aid in recovery. Medicine cabinets are vulnerable medication storage spaces to anyone who may enter your home; visitors, potential buyers at an open house, or contract laborers to name a few. Locking your medications in a safe prevents easy access to your medication and helps prevent abuse and misuse of prescription medications. 

Securing your prescription medication is an important task, but not a daunting one.  When contacting your pharmacist or local prevention experts for inquiry about a free or low-cost lockbox, you will be educated on how to be safe and feel empowered when you have prescription medications. In addition to low or no-cost programs, big-box retailers, such as WalMart, stock lock box options. Prices for the boxes typically range from $11 to $60 depending on the amount of security you would like. 

When you receive your lockbox and before you place your medications inside the box, take the time to count how many pills you have in each bottle. It is best practice to keep a small logbook in your lockbox to record when you take your pills and when you should run out or need a refill. 

Taking your medication as instructed by your physician is important, but there are times you do not need medicine anymore before your supply is gone. There are many occurrences where patients have had surgery and are prescribed a large amount of a powerful pain reliever, such as an opioid. As they recover, they do not need or wish to take any more pain medication. This is the main reason it is important to know how to properly dispose of your medications. 

In the past, it was thought to take unused or expired prescriptions and flush them down the toilet, but now we know that flushing prescriptions down the toilet is harmful to the environment and our water system. The best method for medication disposal is to find a local drop box locations. Typically, the local police station and sheriff’s office will have a medication drop box where anyone can leave medications so that they will be safe from theft. Also, do not feel like you are being judged or looked down upon when you do bring your unused medications to a dropbox location. You are being silently applauded for being responsible and taking action against prescription drug abuse in your community. 

Here in Stillwater, there are four permanent locations to dispose of old medications: Stillwater Police Department, Payne County Courthouse, University Health Services, and Razook’s Drug. 

Bringing your medications to these locations is accessible and easy. Do not worry if your name is on the pill bottle, no one will steal your identity or have access to your medical records. You do have the complete right and option to peel off the prescription or heavily mark it out, but just know that both the bottle and medication will be incinerated. 

Remember that you cannot share the medication that was prescribed to you. It is against the law to share medication, and it is also against the law to be in possession of prescription medications that are not your own. 

Oklahoma leads the nation in non-medical use of prescription medication, and safely storing, properly disposing of, and never sharing your medications can help keep your family and friends safe. 

If you have any questions or concerns about the safety of your medications or would like more information, please contact OSU Community Wellness Programs at (405) 642-2220.