By Laurie Herrick, Preventionist

October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. It is observed annually to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicine abuse. One of the goals is to educate parents and youth about the potential dangers associated with prescription and OTC medicine abuse. About one in 25 youth ages 12 through 17 has abused cough medicine to get high from its dextromethorphan ingredient, and one in 5 young adults has abused a prescription drug. Prescription drug misuse can lead to addiction or overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, young adults are the biggest abusers of prescription drugs, particularly in the form of opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants, and anti-anxiety drugs.

When a child or teen is prescribed medication, a physician or parent should closely supervise them because sharing, misusing, or abusing medications (both Rx and OTC) has the potential to be morbidly dangerous. Some medications are classified as opioids or contain certain ingredients, for example, dextromethorphan (DXM), which are all extremely potent and highly addictive for teens with their underdeveloped bodies and brains.All parents and guardians are encouraged to securely lock away all current medications in the house as a means to prevent misuse by youth.

Another goal of National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month is to encourage the proper and safe disposal of unused or expired medications. This could mean bringing it to your pharmacy or a local medicine drop box for safe disposal. It is very important that proper disposal practices be implemented when it comes to prescription and over-the-counter medications. When medications are thrown in the trash or flushed down the toilet or a drain, the chemicals that comprise them contaminate our water supply or the soil of our environment (which can then also access our water supply). The benefit of proper disposal protects us from this even occurring. You can use this tool from the Diversion Control Division to locate safe places to dispose of expired medications. 

Watch for more details on the next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 23, 2021 from 10AM to 2PM.

Image credit: Matteo Badini / Unsplash


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