Prescription Drugs: What Can Go Wrong?

Two years ago I had a very painful sprained ankle. My physician gave me Vicodin for the pain. I took a few and then put them in my desk. I then forgot that they were there. Along with the pain medication there were some tranquilizers, mood altering drugs, and some muscle relaxants. I hate throwing anything away so, over the years, I was getting quite a collection of old medications. “You never know when you may need them.” It didn’t seem like such a bad thing keeping old meds around ‘just in case’ until my friend one day told me a very sad story. This is what she described to me…

One beautiful afternoon the phone rang. It was my distraught daughter calling to tell me that my granddaughter Mary was in the hospital, unconscious, due to a drug overdose. How can that be? She is a straight-A student, everybody loves her. She has never been in trouble, she has been accepted to three collages, is very self-assured and has always done well. My mind reeled. It made no sense to me that she would be hospitalized for a drug overdose. How can that be possible?

I raced to the hospital. There she was, my beautiful, sweet Mary, laying there motionless and pale. She had IV’s in both arms and a breathing tube in her mouth. The respirator was making a horrible sound as it ‘breathed’ to keep Rachel alive.

I found my daughter sitting in the waiting room. Her eyes were red and she looked as though she had not slept in weeks. “What happened?” I asked. My daughter told me what she had learned from the ambulance driver and one of the people at the party. Apparently Mary had gone to a party and in order to get into the party you had to bring pills. Everyone brought pills and put them in a dish like M&M’s. There was beer and wine and pills. I guess it was a coming-of-age party. The ambulance driver said that when they arrived, they found Mary crumbled in a ball on a bed in one of the bedrooms.

It seems Mary went to the party after just having broken up with her boyfriend. She did not know most of the people. Thankfully, one of the girls at the party found Mary and called 9-1-1.

“But where did she get all those pills”?” I asked my daughter. She looked at me with a mixture of anger and sorrow. “From you” she said quietly. “You saved all those pills over the years in case you might need them, and now Mary is on life-support. Was it worth it, Mom?”

My friend’s tragic experience taught me a valuable lesson. When my prescription medications are no longer needed, I immediately dispose of the left-overs. I no longer save, or hoard or store them.

Let today be the day you throw out any medications that you no longer need. Don’t put a teen or a child at risk of finding and consuming dangerous medications. Every year emergency rooms treat victims of unintentional overdoses. We do not have to be part of the problem. We do not have to save our ‘left-overs.’ The risk is just not worth it.

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