By Christina Elston
With abuse of prescription drugs becoming one of the top choices for teens trying to get high, the federal government has issued a call to households to dispose of unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs safely. New guidelines, issued by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggest:
- taking the products out of their original containers;
- mixing the drugs with used coffee grounds, cat litter or other undesirable substances to ensure they are not diverted or accidentally ingested by children or pets;
- sealing the mixture in impermeable, nondescript containers such as empty jars or sealable bags; and
- throwing these containers in the trash.
An alternative is to return the drugs to pharmaceutical take-back locations for safe disposal. The guidelines state that prescription drugs should only be flushed down the toilet if the accompanying patient information says that it's safe to do so, due to environmental concerns.
The idea is to get unneeded drugs out of the house in a way that will keep teens and others from digging them out of the trash and abusing or selling them. A February 2007 report from the ONDCP revealed that 840,000 teens ages 12 to 17 said they abused prescription drugs in 2005, making this the second most abused illegal drug next to marijuana. Among 12- to 13-year-olds, prescription drugs rank at the top. The report also says that more than 60 percent of teens say that prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parents' medicine cabinets. Teens also report buying or getting prescription drugs free from relatives or friends. And 10 percent said they took the drugs without asking.
Time to clean out that medicine cabinet.
Christina Elston is a senior editor and health writer for Dominion Parenting Media.
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