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Medication Safety: How to Avoid Prescription Misuse

Prescription drugs are important in maintaining a healthy quality of life. It is imperative, however, that we understand the potential dangers of improper use and how to avoid these dangers. Misuse of prescribed medications can result in serious health risks and, in more severe cases, misuse can lead to death.

There are several precautions you can take right now to ensure safe use and effectiveness of your medications.

Ask Questions First

If you are unsure about a prescription or how you should be using it, discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist beforehand. This will drastically decrease the likelihood of misuse. A doctor or pharmacist can provide insights into potential risks associated with taking this medication or any specific directions to which you must adhere.

Some common concerns you may want to address are:

● Is this prescription safe to take with other medications?
● How often should I take this prescription?
● Is it safe to drive under this medication?
● Should I eat with this medication? Avoid alcohol?
● Is there a timeline for how long I should be taking this?
● Are there any potential side effects?

A medical professional will be able to discuss these questions and any other concerns you may have regarding your prescriptions.

Never Mix or Consolidate Prescriptions

Avoid the mixing or consolidation of multiple drugs in single bottle. This can lead to accidental ingestion and many serious health concerns. When removed from their original container, there is no way of determining the exact dosage, directions or expiration dates. All medications should be sealed in their original containers and should be safely discarded if the label or container is damaged.

Take the Appropriate Dosage

To avoid accidental poisoning from prescription medications, do not take more than what is recommended on the label of your medication unless otherwise discussed with your doctor or pharmacist. Taking higher dosages of certain medications puts you at risk of overdose and can cause undesired effects to your body and your overall health. Higher than normal use of certain prescriptions will also lead to a greater tolerance and may reduce the effectiveness of the medication.

Keep Your Medications Away from Others

This can be especially dangerous when children are present in the home. Placing medications in areas out of reach from children can decrease the likelihood of accidental contact and ingestion, however you must also protect them from teens and adults who may choose to use your medications for purposes other than why they were prescribed.

According to New York State’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, “nearly half of all prescription drug misuse occurs right in the home when a person takes a prescription medication that is not prescribed for him/her or takes it for reasons or in dosages other than prescribed.”

Always remember to properly dispose of prescriptions that are no longer in use. The New York State Department of Health has drop box locations throughout the state where you can dispose of prescription medications. For more information on how to safely dispose of old medications, visit the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website or browse the articles and tips available at MyOldMeds. MyOldMeds provides a simple four-step process to dispose of medications in your home, and also provides information on how to locate community take-back programs near you.

Remember, your prescriptions are important in achieving a healthy quality of life. They should be protected to ensure effectiveness of treatment. By taking these precautions you can help to ensure the safety of yourself and others who may be at risk from potential drug misuse. However, accidents do happen, and when they do, be sure to act fast. If you suspect that you or someone you know has accidentally ingested a prescription medication, contact the Department of Health for poison control emergencies.