6 Ways to Protect Your Family from Medicine Misuse and Abuse
If you're like most people, you probably keep the medications you use most often in convenient, easy-to-reach places. (Does the kitchen cabinet or bathroom shelf sound familiar?) But think: if medicines are easy for you to find, they're probably easy for your children or an older family member to reach, too.
Even common medications in your home can be unsafe if misused, misunderstood or not safely stored. Follow these six tips to keep your family medicine-safe:
- Store all medicines in a safe place, out-of-sight and out-of-reach, especially if the person in your care can't manage them on his or her own.
- Keep medicines in the container in which they were purchased or prescribed, with the labels intact.
- Don't guess about medicine dosages. Read and follow the label instructions exactly when taking all medicines, even vitamins. If your child needs medicine, don't assume you should give him or her half an adult dose. If you're not sure about the correct dose after reading the label, call your local pharmacy or healthcare provider for guidance.
- Finish all prescription medications, and do not give medicines prescribed for one family member to someone else.
- Check the medicine package or container for an expiration date. Discard any medicines that have expired because they may not work. However, not all medicines should be put in the trash, down the drain or flushed. Learn how to dispose of unused medicines.
- Use medicine reminders and organizers to help keep track of medicines and when to give them.
Keep in mind, too, that it's possible to accidently overdose on medications you may think are harmless. Many medicines have the same active ingredients. For example, acetaminophen is a common ingredient in prescription and over-the counter pain relievers, cough medicines, sleep aids and allergy medicine. Using more than one medicine containing acetaminophen at the same time can be dangerous.
To stay safe:
- Read the medicine label for "active ingredients" (the ingredients that make the medicine work). Acetaminophen may be listed as "APAP" or "acetam" on the label.
- Don't use more than one medicine at a time containing acetaminophen.
A Note on Prescription Drug Abuse
Most teens and adults who abuse or misuse prescription pain relievers get the medicine from home or from someone they know. If you or someone in your family is using a prescription pain reliever, don't share it and dispose of it safely when you're finished taking it.