Abuse of prescription drugs is our country's fastest-growing drug problem, the source of which lurks far too often in our home medicine cabinets," says R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Children five years old and younger accounted for 69 percent of visits made to the emergency room in 2008 for accidental ingestion of drugs, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). One-third of medication poisonings in children are due to a grandparents medicine.There are several reasons for this. First, older people are more likely to have both over the counter and prescription meds. Second, they are more likely to keep their meds in containers that are not child-resistant because of trouble opening the child-resistant caps. Also pills are often in plain sight in easily opened plastic pill minder boxes, or worse, decorative purse size pill containers.Even though your grandchildren may not visit often, it is important to use child-resistant containers. If you use pill minder boxes to organize meds, get the child-resistant ones that have a button that must be pushed to flip up the lid.In addition, dont leave your medications where children will see them. Put them in a high cabinet that is out of reach, or in a locked box with the key either hidden or in your possession at all times. Also do not leave bottle of meds in your purse, which is a magnet for children. Try to remember to keep your purse out of reach as well as keys and meds. The top of the refrigerator is a good option for keeping medications away from small children, who will put almost anything in their mouths, and young children who somehow always think they will find candy or gum in grandmas purse. Parents should begin talking to children early about how they should never even handle a pill bottle. Only mommy or daddy or a designated person like a school nurse or grandparents should administer medications to a child.
The danger of overdose or poisoning from grandparents medication is not restricted to young children however. Seventy percent of drugs that are abused come from friends and family members rather than pill mills or doctor shopping and prescription drugs are abused more than all other illicit drugs combined.
Every day more than 4,000 young people begin experimenting with prescription drugs. Teens and young adults may target a grandparents pain medication to ingest for a high or to sell.
The National Family Partnership (NFP) has created a Lock Your Meds campaign to reduce prescription drug abuse. The campaign Web site (http://www.lockyourmeds.org) includes easy-to-use resources, such as a home medicine inventory card and guidelines on how to properly dispose of prescription medicine. To help grandparents, NFP offers a glossary of terms teens use to describe the most popular abused drugs, such as "pancakes and syrup" to describe a combination of pills and cough syrup. The glossary is called "Close the Communication Gap." Families can gather information about the extent of the problem by reading the "MEDucation Kit" and learn preventive steps from the "Parent Guide" to begin reversing this alarming trend.
Judy Kirkwood has learned there are very few places one can successfully hide meds and it is best to keep them locked up when youngsters or young people are visiting.