700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Safe Storage and Disposal of Prescription Pain Medicine

Nov 30, 2022

In national surveys, over 14% of high school seniors report lifetime misuse of prescription opioids. Many people think they are buying them off the internet or on the street or doctor shopping, but 70% of people who abuse prescription painkillers get them from a friend or relative or getting them from their own prescriptions.

Statistics you need to know:

  • Deaths from unintentional drug overdoses now exceed motor vehicle crash deaths as the leading cause of death in Ohio and the United States
  • One in 5 high school seniors report misusing prescription drugs within the past year, with nearly half of these medications being opioids
  • Highest risk for non-medical use of prescription opioids among adolescents occurs at age 15.
  • Four out of 5 synthetic opioid users started out misusing prescription opioids
  • Opioid-related death rates have nearly quadrupled over the past 14 years with a significant increase in the past 5 years.

What can you do to keep your children safe from misuse of prescription opioids?

Monitor, secure and properly dispose of prescription drugs. 

  • Know where your medications are.
  • Know how much medication you have on a frequent basis.
  • Keep medications in a secure and locked location – not in a medicine cabinet, nightstand, kitchen counter, or purse. Lock boxes can be purchased from pharmacy or on the internet.
  • Recognize appropriate time to transition off pain medication through discussion with healthcare provider.
  • Parent removal and securing of unused prescription from child/ patient access once transition from medication is complete.

Dispose of unused medications. The BEST place is a local drop-off location such Nationwide Children’s Hospital outpatient pharmacies or a public drop box (see www.rxdrugdrops.com) for locations. If you want, or need to dispose of them at home:

  • Do not flush un-used medications down the toilet unless otherwise instructed.
  • Take prescription medications out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds. Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag. Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off. Place the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers, in the trash.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration website has information on safe disposal guidelines.

Emphasize with your children that drugs should be taken only legally, as prescribed by their physician and, as the parent, you should assume responsibility for dispensing any medications to your children. Also, reinforce with your child to never take another person’s medications – it is both illegal and unsafe.

Please do your part to keep our children and communities safe by locking up medications, tracking daily medication use and properly disposing of them when they are no longer needed.  With these efforts alone we can make a difference in unintentional drug overdose rates. 

Learn more from Nationwide Children’s Hospital about Opioid Safety. For more information on the Substance Use Treatment and Recovery Program at Nationwide Children’s, click here.

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Sharon Wrona, DNP, PNP, PMHS
Comprehensive Pain and Palliative Care Services

Sharon Wrona, DNP, PNP, PMHS. AP-PMN is the administrative director of the Comprehensive Pain and Palliative Care Services at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Erin McKnight, MD, MPH
Adolescent Medicine

Erin R. McKnight, MD, is a member of the Section of Adolescent Medicine at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Her research interests involve opioid prescribing practices and adolescent opioid misuse.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.