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Medication Storage Safety: Not a Glamorous Conversation, but Important

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26
Mar

David C. Rettew, MD, is a child psychiatrist at Fletcher Allen and director of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Program.

David C. Rettew, MD, is a child psychiatrist at Fletcher Allen and director of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Program.

We all know how important the right medications can be to health, but when they are not stored properly, these same medications can become dangerous instruments of misuse.

Diversion, suicide attempts, and accidental overdose can all result from the unsecured storage of medications.  A conversation with parents about safe medications storage can sometimes be the difference between a curious or depressed teen being in the emergency department, or not from medications you, as primary care clinicians, prescribe.

Locking up medications does not need to be complicated or expensive. If the designated medication cabinet does not have a locking mechanism, medications can be moved to a lockbox or even a closet or other storage area where a simple padlock can be applied.

Other points that can help keep medications safe are as follows:

  • Keep medications in their original containers so that there is no confusion about what they are, who they are for, and when they were prescribed
  • For parents of adolescents who are prescribed medications and who are learning to be responsible for taking them, put them in charge of weekly pillboxes rather than giving over the entire prescription

Old medications should be disposed of properly, options include:

  • Take medications to an identified community drug “take-back” site, often the local police station.
  • Take no longer needed medications out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used 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.  See this FDA site for more information.
  • Use similar safety precautions for other items such as alcohol and, of course, firearms.

For more information, or to print out a flyer to give to parents, you can download a PDF from Safe Guard My Meds.

David C. Rettew, MD, is a child psychiatrist at Fletcher Allen and director of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Program.

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