Safe Storage and Disposal of Prescription Pain Medicine

In national surveys, over 10% of high school seniors report lifetime misuse of prescription opioids (pain killers). Many people think they are buying them off the internet or on the street or doctor shopping, but 70% of people who abuse prescription painkillers get them from a friend or relative or getting them from their own prescriptions.

Statistics you need to know:

  • Deaths from unintentional drug overdoses now exceed motor vehicle crash deaths as the leading cause of death in Ohio and the United States
  • One in 6 high school seniors report misusing prescription drugs within the past year, with nearly half of these medications being opioids
  • Highest risk for non-medical use of prescription opioids among adolescents occurs at age 16.
  • Four in 5 new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers
  • Heroin-related death rates have nearly quadrupled over the past 14 years with a significant increase in the past 5 years.

What can you do to keep your children safe and stem the tide of rising misuse of prescription pain-killers/opioids?

Monitor, secure and properly dispose of prescription drugs. 

  • Know where your drugs are.
  • Know how much you have on a frequent basis.
  • Keep them in a secure and locked location – not in a medicine cabinet, nightstand, kitchen counter, or purse. These lock boxes can be purchased from pharmacy or on the internet.
  • Recognize appropriate time to transition off pain medication through discussion with healthcare provider.
  • Parent removal and securing of unused prescription from child/ patient access once Transition from medication is complete.

Dispose of unused drugs. The BEST place is a local drop-off location (see http:/ for locations, or at the next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. If you want, or need to dispose of them at home:

  • Do not flush un-used medications down the toilet unless otherwise instructed.
  • Take prescription drugs out of their original containers.
  • Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
  • Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
  • Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
  • Place the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers, in the trash.
  • For more information on safe disposal guidelines, go to this web site.

Emphasize with your children that drugs should be taken only legally, as prescribed by their physician and, as the parent, you should assume responsibility for dispensing any medications to your children. Also, reinforce with your child to never take another person’s drugs – it is both illegal and unsafe.

Please do your part to keep our children and communities safe by locking up medications, tracking daily medication use and properly disposing of them when they are no longer needed.  With these efforts alone we can make a difference in unintentional drug overdose rates.  For more information on Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Medication Assisted Treatment for Addiction (MATA) Program, click here and if you are interested in protecting your children from common toxic substances in and around your home, including prescription medications, listen to our PediaCast here.

Sharon Wrona, DNP, PNP, PMHS
Sharon Wrona, DNP, PNP, PMHS. AP-PMN is Administrative Director of the Comprehensive Pain and Palliative Care Services at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She has been working at Nationwide Children's Hospital for over 28 years and has spent the last 14 years helping to develop the Comprehensive Pain Services and as an advanced practice nurse. Dr. Wrona is Certified in Pain Management Nursing and recognized as Advanced Practice Nurse in Pain Management Nursing, She is a member of the American Pain Society, International Society for the Study of Pain, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the American Society for Pain Management Nursing. Dr. Wrona is active with the Ohio Government Cabinet Opiate Action Team on ruling out Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Treatment of Acute Pain and co-chairing the Opioid Safety Task Force at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

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