Health & Safety

March 22, 2013

Abuse, disposal of prescription drugs big problems

Capt. HEE LEE, 56th Fighter Wing Legal and Capt. CHARLES EMHOFF, 56th Medical Support Squadron

Abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, and unfortunately, this trend is reflected in the military including the Air Force. To combat this problem, the Defense Department has expanded drug testing to include testing for commonly abused prescription drugs. This increased testing has been underway since May 1, 2012.

While pain medications such as Percocet and Vicodine are highly effective in alleviating suffering from injuries, they are dangerous and potentially addictive when used outside of medical supervision. Furthermore, they are controlled substances and illegal to use without a prescription.

Taking controlled medications in a manner other than how they were prescribed also poses a risk to the person’s health and safety and can put others at risk as well. Prescription medications should be taken only for the purposes for which they were prescribed and at the dose and frequency prescribed.

Additionally, Airmen are reminded never to take a medication prescribed to someone else and to properly dispose of their own prescription medicines.

How to dispose of prescription drugs:
Patients are encouraged to dispose of prescribed medications once they are no longer needed for the prescribed purpose. Do not save unused medication for friends or family members, as it is against the law to give a prescription medication to anyone other than for whom it was prescribed.

The Drug Enforcement Administration prohibits pharmacies from taking back controlled substances. However, the services collaborate with law enforcement agencies in the DEA drug take-back days, which occur several times each year in most communities. Luke AFB does not have its own take-back days.

Simplifying the disposal of prescription medications has been a key issue recently. The DEA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Disposal of Controlled Substances in the Federal Register Dec. 21, 2012. These regulations would implement the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, by expanding the options available to collect controlled substances from ultimate users for purposes of disposal to include: Take-back events, mail-back programs, and collection receptacle locations.

  • Take the medication out of the original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash. Do not flush them down the toilet unless the accompanying patient information sheet specifically instructs that it is safe to do so.
  • Studies have found traces of medications in public water supplies. While there has been no evidence of human harm, the effect it has on aquatic life is unknown. The Food and Drug Administration has published a list of medications that may be flushed. It is available on the FDA’s website at fda.gov/drugs.
  • Put medications in a sealable bag, empty can or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag. Needles and syringes should be placed in a sharps container for safety. Scratch out all personal identification information on bottle labels before they are discarded.
  • Check the medicine cabinet for expired medications and dispose of them. Expired medications can be less effective or even risky due to changes in chemical composition. Undesirable locations for storage, including a humid bathroom cabinet, may also contribute to decreased effectiveness in medicines that have not reached the expiration date on the bottle. To ensure optimum shelf life of medication, it should be stored in a dry, climate-controlled environment and kept away from direct sunlight exposure. Medication bottles from the Luke pharmacy have a light-resistant amber tint but still need to be kept out of direct sunlight.

Interesting note: if you have a bottle of aspirin and the contents smell like vinegar, that’s a sign it may have gone bad.




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