Abuse and Overdose
“The abuse of prescription drugs is our nation’s fastest-growing drug problem,” said Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske. Because prescription drugs are legal, they are easily accessible, often from a home medicine cabinet. Further, some individuals who misuse prescription drugs, particularly teens, believe these substances are safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by a healthcare professional and sold behind the counter.
A federal study released in June of 2010, found that ER visits for misused prescription and over-the-counter drugs are now as common as visits for the use of illegal drugs. In 2008, the misuse of pain relievers — including oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone — led to about 305,000 ER visits, more than double the number in 2004. This study illustrates the depth of the prescription drug problem and highlights the widespread effect.
A drug overdose is either the accidental or intentional use of a drug or medicine in an amount that is higher than normally used. All drugs have the potential to be misused, whether legally prescribed by a doctor, purchased over the counter at the local drug store, or bought illegally on the street. Taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol, even drugs normally considered safe can cause death or serious long-term consequences.
Children are particularly at risk for accidental overdose and account for over 1 million poisonings each year. People who suffer from depression and who have suicidal thoughts are also at high risk for drug overdose. Accidental overdose may even result from misuse of prescription medicines or commonly used medications like pain relievers and cold remedies.
Unwanted medicine disposed in the trash can be stolen and used, potentially resulting in death or illness.
Currently there are few safe and convenient ways for consumers to dispose of unused prescription drugs. Twenty to sixty percent of prescription medications go unused and are eventually disposed. Nearly all unused pharmaceuticals enter either our solid waste system or our sewage system. Neither disposal method is environmentally sound. Pharmaceuticals flushed down the toilet pass through our sewage treatment plants, which are generally not designed to screen for these chemicals. Pharmaceuticals discarded in landfills can seep into the surrounding watertable. Several studies, including a 2002 analysis by the US Geological Survey of 139 streams across 30 states found that 80 percent of waterways tested had measurable concentrations of prescription and nonprescription drugs, steroids, and reproductive hormones.
It is important to remember that many of these substances are biologically active. In other words, the ingredients can cause problems in humans and animals.
The East Tennessee Regional Medication Collection Coalition is a collaboration among prevention coalitions, local and state governments, police departments, sheriff offices, and utility companies to create safe, convenient opportunities for proper medicine disposal. Disposing of your medicines at one of these locations will ensure that your medicines will not be stolen from the garbage, will not enter our environment and eliminates the potential for abuse and overdoses at home.
What we accept for disposal:
- Prescription medications (unwanted, expired, unused)
- Cold and flu medications
- Vitamins/herbal supplements
- Pet medications
- Medication Samples
- Medicated ointments/lotions
- Unused sharps (epinephrine, unused pricking devices)
What we do NOT accept for disposal:
- Business waste
- Used needles and other sharps
Used needles and other sharps should be disposed by placing the sharps/needles in a sealed plastic container and putting that in with your household waste.