It’s a sad fact that almost twenty per cent of Americans have used prescription drugs (mostly pain killers) for non-medicinal reasons.  Some prescription painkillers have now surpassed heroin and cocaine as the leading cause of fatal overdoses.  According to a report by the Baltimore Sun, “drug use accounts for billions of dollars per year in health care costs.  Drug overdoses rank second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of accidental death.”  Adverse drug reactions from legally prescribed drugs cause about 106,000 deaths per year.

Hospitals have reported that poisonings by prescription sedatives and tranquilizers jumped 65% from 1999 to 2006.  One-third of addicts questioned report that their first drug experience was from prescription drugs.  Mixing multiple drugs is a serious health risk.  Ask your physician if you question the interactions between medicines you are taking.  Patients should read the label and information provided with a new prescription drug.  Your pharmacist can also advise you on drug interactions, if you take more than one.

We’re certainly not telling you to not take medications that were prescribed for you by your physician; however, you should report to your doctor any side effects you may have from a new medicine.  The main thing to keep in mind is to keep your prescription medications in a safe place.  If you have small children, of course, you will.  But if there are teens in your house, you should also take precautions.  If you are taking a pain killer, your teen may think it’s o.k. to experiment with it.  Many times they prefer to use a prescription drug recreationally, thinking it is safer than street drugs.  Don’t let your medicine cabinet become a “free” pharmacy!

June is National Safety Month.  This first weekly theme is “Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention.”  It is hoped that you will consider how serious this matter is.  Senior citizens may be confused about their medications and need help monitoring them.  We should be vigilant about prescription drugs in our homes and keep them in a place where they aren’t accessible to others.  The abuse of prescription drugs is as serious as abusing street drugs or alcohol.  That abuse can lead to serious illness, or death.