Five tips to keep you safe with prescription meds

Jonathan Kaupanger
August 28, 2018 - 2:07 pm



More than 80 percent of American adults take at least one medication.  Another 30 percent are using five or more drugs on a regular basis too.  Each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) we spend $3.5 billion on adverse drug events like overmedication, medication errors, side effects and allergic reactions.  Worse still, more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017.   

If you take a prescription drug, here are five tips that will help you stay safe: 

  1. Don’t mix your prescriptions with alcohol. Or anything else either. Just say 'no' to mixing opioids with any medication that causes drowsiness.  If you are taking opioids, you never want to mix these with Benzodiazepines (benzos) like Xanax, Ativan or Valium.
  2. Take your meds exactly as directed.   Those directions are for you, no one else.  So that means you shouldn't share your meds with anyone else, and on the flip side, don’t take anyone else’s prescription medication either.  If a friend is injured, instead of sharing your pain reliever, make sure he or she sees a healthcare professional for care.
  3. If you stop taking your medication for a while and then start back up with your regular dose, this could cause a problem.  Keep communication open with your VA healthcare provider during the duration of your medication use.
  4. If you have old medications laying around the house, get rid of them.  You run the risk of taking the wrong drug by mistake.  Don’t ever flush the meds or throw them out in the trash.  This can harm the water supply and wildlife.  For specific drug disposal information, go to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website, type in the medication name and click on search.  Then click on the label section for that medication.  Look for the most recent label and search for the word “disposal.”
    • VA has envelopes you can use to mail your unwanted medication for disposal.  The envelopes are free and don’t require postage. 
    • Some VA facilities have a receptacle specifically for your unwanted mediations.  Just remember, if you put the wrong prescription in the receptacle, VA cannot retrieve them or return them to you!   Check with your VA Pharmacist to see which option is available for you. 
    • There is a website run by the DEA that can help locate a place in your community for drug disposal.
    • National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is run by the DEA and has collected more than 4,982 tons of prescription drugs since 2010.  The next Drug Take-Back Day is October 27, 2018
  5. If you are taking prescription opioids, know what an overdose looks like and have a Naloxone kit available.  Some overdose indicators include: extremely pale in the face and feels clammy to the touch; confusion, delirium or acting drunk; extreme sleepiness; frequent vomiting; loss of consciousness and slowed or irregular breathing.
    • Naloxone is a prescription medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, if administered in time.  Here’s a VA video that shows the correct way to use Naloxone Nasal Spray.  Other kits contain injections, but both forms are effective in reversing a life-threatening overdose.

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