Household Safety for Medications

December 12, 2019. Article by: Government of BC

It’s important to follow safety guidelines for all medications – whether they are prescription medications like opioids or benzodiazepines – or purchased over-the-counter.

Most people use medications safely and effectively to treat a range of health conditions.

However, some people use medications in ways other than how they were prescribed or intended.

Research has shown that:

  • When one person in a household is prescribed opioid medication, the chance of someone else in the household taking it increases.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications are popular among young people experimenting recreationally with substances.
  • Most young people who use medications recreationally get them from home or from friends who may have gotten them from home.
  • Children or pets can accidentally take medications that have not been disposed of properly.

Taking medication in ways other than how it has been prescribed or against recommended guidelines is dangerous and can increase the risk of overdose.

How to safely store medication

Take these simple steps to store medications safely in your household:

  • Keep them in a locked container out of sight of children and other people in your household.
  • Take any unwanted, unused or expired medications back to your pharmacist or find a drop off location in your community. Do not throw medications in the garbage, or flush down the toilet or sink.
  • If you are being prescribed opioids, such as codeine, morphine or hydrocodone, or benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Valium, consider asking your doctor if you can be prescribed fewer pills each time. This can make it easier to keep track of the amount of medication in a household. 
  • Talk to your family and loved ones about the risks of using medications improperly. Here’s guidance on how to start the conversation about substance use with youth.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications help people manage a range of conditions. However, using any medication comes with risks. People who have prescriptions for medications can manage those risks by working with their doctor or pharmacist.

Speak to a doctor if you are using prescription or over-the-counter medications improperly to cope with chronic pain, injury, trauma or other health concerns.

If you, or someone you know are using medications improperly, you can also: 

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