Image of a prescription medication bottled tipped on its side with pills spilling out on table.

Beware the Dangers of Keeping Unused Prescriptions

Did you know more than three out of four people who misuse prescription drugs are using drugs that are prescribed to friends and family?

Many of us, if not all at one time or another, have had leftover pills. This can be especially true if you’ve received prescription painkillers, including opioids. That’s because your doctor cannot predict exactly how long you’ll have pain, so it’s common to have some pills remaining after the pain is gone. And you’re not alone. It’s estimated that nearly six in 10 Americans have leftover narcotics at home.

It can be tempting to keep unused pills “on hand,” but these can easily get into the wrong hands of a curious teen or someone already addicted. And looking at Blue Cross’ data, we found that nearly 40 percent of those with an opioid overdose didn’t have an opioid prescription in the previous four months, suggesting they may be using someone else’s prescription.

Medication takeback programs are the ideal way to properly dispose of expired, unwanted or unused medications in your home. One good option is to participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, held April 28 this year.

Don’t want to wait? You can find a disposal site in your local community through the DEAor Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michigan-OPEN). Both websites allow you to enter your ZIP code and find a location near you that provides a safe, convenient and anonymous way to dispose of your medications year-round. As a last resort, if you can’t find a program or facility in your area, refer to these tips from the FDA on how to dispose of most medications on your own.

Remember to handle your drugs with care, even when you are done taking them.  Protect yourself, others and your community by battling this opioid epidemic and by keeping these drugs out of the wrong hands.

On Thursday, April 26, 2018, join us for a #DrugTakeBackDay Twitter chat on the @BCBSM Twitter page from 12 to 1 p.m. EST about the importance of disposing of your medications correctly. 

As the state’s largest health insurers, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are committed to improving the value and quality of life in communities across Michigan. As a part of this commitment, BCBSM and BCN have supported the DEA’s Drug Take-Back Day since 2011. 

Jody Gembarski is the clinical manager of Pharmacy Services at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

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