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News > Sharing prescription medications? Don't risk it!
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. – Airman 1st Class Skyler Kieran, 20th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician, fills a bottle of medication in order to fill a customer’s prescription August 5, 2010. Pharmacy technicians are responsible for interpreting, filling and dispensing prescriptions to patients. Once the technician prepares the order, the pharmacist double checks the prescription and order to make sure all of the information is correct. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Amber E. Jacobs)
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Sharing prescription medications? Don't risk it!

Posted 8/16/2011   Updated 8/17/2011 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Francisco Boral
99th Medical Support Squadron

8/16/2011 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Have you checked your medicine cabinet lately? You may have unwanted antibiotics from a recent infection, surplus pain medication from when you had your wisdom teeth removed or extra sleeping pills from a recent bout of insomnia.

There are several reasons you may have leftover medications: you may have felt better and stopped your antibiotics early, which is never a good idea; your pain may have stopped and left you with extra tablets or your problem may be seasonal like certain allergies.

When you have leftover medications, you should never take them the next time you feel sick, share them with a sick friend or flush them down a toilet. These actions can lead to potential misuse or abuse. Prescription drug misuse and abuse is occurring more and more and it happens when someone intentionally takes a prescription medication in a way other than as prescribed.

According to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on drug use and health, more than seven million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs. A common misconception is that prescription drugs are safe under any circumstance because a doctor assigns them to us. The truth is that, while prescription medications can play an important role in our overall health, they can also have serious health risks when misused or abused.

So what's really wrong with taking leftover medications? A medication is prescribed for a specific condition. For example, specific antibiotics are effective against particular bacterial infections. That leftover antibiotic may not be effective against a new infection. In fact, taking an antibiotic for less than its full course of therapy may cause bacteria to become resistant and more difficult to treat.

Sharing leftover prescription drugs with friends or family members also may have dangerous consequences. The shared medication may interact with your friend's current medications or an underlying medical condition, the dose may be wrong for your friend's body size or weight, or a serious side effect or allergic reaction may develop. Sharing medications bypasses simple safety checks that doctors and pharmacists perform to prevent these types of occurrences.

Sharing prescription medication is not only dangerous to your health, in some cases, it is illegal. The Air Force's policy on drug abuse applies to the use of illicit drugs and to the wrongful use and distribution of controlled prescription medications. Controlled substances are prescription drugs with a potential for abuse that can lead to addiction and dependence. Have you ever notice a warning label on your prescription that says "CAUTION: Federal law prohibits the transfer of this drug to any person other than the patient for whom it was prescribed?" This shows that it is a crime to share, possess or use someone else's controlled medications. This act is punishable under Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Wrongful use of medications may result in forfeiture of pay, loss of rank, dishonorable discharge or confinement.

To dispose of your medications, do not flush or put them down the sink. Only a few select medications with a high potential for abuse have been recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for flushing. You may refer to the FDA website or check with the pharmacy for a complete list of approved medications for flushing. For medications not recommended for flushing by the FDA, contact your local trash and recycling service if a drug take-back collection program is available or check with local law enforcement stations for the location of drug disposal boxes and sites.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is currently sponsoring a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day campaign every six months and Nellis AFB is registered to have a drug disposal collection point for the event. It provides a venue for all DoD beneficiaries to safely dispose their expired, unused or unwanted prescription medications. The next event is scheduled for Oct. 29, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact the Nellis AFB pharmacy at 653-3201 or 653-2747 for more information.

If there is no drug take-back program available, most medications can be disposed in the household trash. Simply remove the drugs from the prescription containers, crush and mix with undesirable substances such as cat litter or coffee grounds. Then, place in a disposable container with a lid, such as laundry detergent or bleach bottle, seal with tape and place in the trash.

Having unused or expired prescription medications in the house increases the risk of misuse and abuse. Help safeguard your family's health and your career by disposing of unused prescription medications appropriately. Prescription misuse and abuse is not only dangerous, but it is also incompatible with the Air Force way of life.

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