Intentional or Accidental, Prescription Drug Overdose Deaths Increasing
After days of spring cleaning, the house, garage, and attic are in ship-shape. The yard is clean and has been cleared 100 feet for optimum fire safety. You’re feeling pretty good. But there’s one more area you should look at: your prescription drug stash. The spot where you keep the prescriptions that were filled but never quite finished... After all, you might need the rest at some point.
About 22,000 United States deaths result from prescription overdoses each year. To avoid many of these accidental deaths, consumers and caregivers should remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from their home.
The CDC reports that of the more than 41,000 drug overdose deaths in 2014, approximately 22,000 of these were from prescription drugs.
Accidental prescription overdoses primarily impact three groups:
- Young children: swallow drugs because of their curiosity.
- Individuals with impaired mental abilities: swallow drugs if left within reach.
- Seniors and others taking medications: can mistakenly ingest or take the wrong medication or dosage of a medication.
Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), prescription medicines should be disposed of in one of these safe options:
- Drop off at a medicine take-back program or through a DEA authorized collector – Recommended
- Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with a substance such as dirt, kitty litter or used coffee grounds, seal in plastic bag and place in your household trash after removing any personal and prescription information.
- Check the FDA website to see which medicines are safe to flush down a sink or toilet
Are prescription drugs safe after expiration?
The expiration date is the final day that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of a medication. Solid dosage forms, such as tablets and capsules, appear to be most stable past their expiration date. However, the loss of potency can be a major health concern, especially when treating an infection with an antibiotic.
Should patients use expired medications or not? While there is no evidence that it is unsafe to take a prescribed medication shortly after the expiration date, we recommend that you consult your doctor to be sure.