05/07/2012 06:16 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2012

Spring Cleaning the Medicine Cabinets, and Other Ways to Combat Rx Abuse

Medicines can revolutionize our health, allowing us to live longer, healthier, more productive lives. But when misused and abused, they have the power to devastate families and communities -- the problem of prescription drug abuse in America is obvious. Nearly 5,500 Americans are misusing prescription medicines in a single day and most young abusers get the medicines from friends or family members. Whether you know it or not, your medicine cabinet could be a target.

What can we do? A good place to start is at home. Some simple steps to consider: First, take your medicines exactly as prescribed. If you have questions about your prescription medicines, consult your health care provider. Never share your medicines with others and always safely store your medicines in the home. If you have unused or expired medicines in the home, dispose of them in a proper and timely manner.

Beyond the confines of our homes, increasingly-creative approaches and inspired thinking are helping address this important public health issue. Paul Heroux shared with HuffPost readers the DEA's National Take Back Day, which is a free program for the public to turn in unwanted and expired medicines. In addition to supporting the DEA Take Back Day, since 2007 PhRMA has partnered with the American Pharmacists Association and U.S. Fish and Wildlife in a program called SMARxT Disposal (, which offers a safe home disposal option. There is a new policy academy by governors working across party lines to share information about what's working in their states, and a new program called "Wake Up To Medicine Abuse" that we're supporting this fall. This will be a first-of-its-kind, week-long public awareness campaign providing a call to action to curb the abuse of medicine. I've talked to parents, teachers, nurses, legislators, and health care providers about what each of us are doing to help, because the prescription drug abuse epidemic is so far-reaching.

Through programs like the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Interconnect Program, state prescription monitoring programs (PMPs) can safely share relevant information across state. These programs can help prevent abusers from obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors and help identify inappropriate prescribing patterns. These are just a few examples of PhRMA's support for programs to help prevent prescription drug abuse, because we've long believed that all relevant stakeholders must work together to share information and engage in problem-solving.

Now, more than ever, it's crucial for all of us to inventory whether we have unused and expired medicine in our homes and take immediate, safe steps to dispose of them -- before they end up in the wrong hands.

Interested in hearing more? Check out PhRMA's Prescription Drug Abuse Resource Center for further information.

For more by John J. Castellani, click here.

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