securing pills

Keep Teens from Taking Unused Pills

April 22, 2022

It’s not uncommon to have old prescriptions sitting in your medicine cabinet. Whether it’s a round of antibiotics you didn’t finish or a medication you are no longer in need of, you may keep a bottle of pills just in case you need it again. However, this is an unsafe practice that can put your family’s health at risk. Teens are especially vulnerable, as they often underestimate the dangers of taking pills not meant for them. This month, in honor of National Drug Take Back Day, we are highlighting the dangers of keeping unused, unsecured medications in the home.

The Dangers of Unsecured Medication

Although it may be tempting to keep leftover pills, this choice can create dangerous scenarios without your knowledge. First, any prescription past its expiration date may cause severe health issues. Medications, like other substances approved by the FDA, are given an expiration date because they are deemed unsafe after a certain point. Expired prescriptions can both lose their potency and cause unintended reactions. It’s difficult to predict how you will react to a drug months or years after taking it for the first time. Doctors prescribe medication based on your current health profile, so taking something without the guidance of a medical professional poses a risk. 

Another danger of keeping unused drugs in your home is the chance that these pills could fall into the wrong hands. Teens are notoriously curious and often seek out potentially hazardous situations. Because their decision-making skills are not fully developed, teenagers may not weigh the potential consequences of their choices. A curious teen may see unsecured pills at home and take them in search of a high. They may also take pills “just to see what happens.” Unfortunately, the result is often devastating.

Taking unprescribed medication can result in serious repercussions. These drugs were not prescribed to your teen, so they could have a severe reaction, prompting a need for medical attention. There could be underlying allergies they are unaware of, or they could experience severe side effects. Because teenagers are still developing, they are also especially susceptible to addiction. Taking pills not prescribed to them can result in behavioral health concerns, such as a substance use disorder.

Securing Pills in the Home

Whether you have medications you are currently taking that you want to keep out of reach, or you need to dispose of old prescriptions, here are some practical tips for safely securing or disposing of these pills:

  1. Install a lock on your medicine cabinet. This is the first line of defense against curious teenagers looking for pills. By installing this safeguard, you have more control over who has access to medication in your home. 
  2. Dispose of old prescriptions properly. April 30th, 2022 is the DEA’s National Drug Take Back Day. You can locate a drug drop-off site using the DEA’s website. Locations near The Forum that are participating in Take Back Day include the San Diego Police Department, the Coronado Police Department, and San Diego State University. The FDA also provides guidelines for proper disposal at home if there is not a collection site near you. 
  3. Have a conversation with your teen about the dangers of taking pills not prescribed to them. One of the first steps in prevention is helping your teen to understand the risks of substance use. Take some time to have an open conversation with your child about why you are locking and disposing of old medications. Allow them to ask questions to promote an honest discourse on the topic.

Help for Teenage Substance Abuse

If you have noticed your teen improperly using medications, they may have a substance use disorder. This condition is characterized by the recurring use of a substance (such as illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications), resulting in an impairment in functioning. You know your teen best, so begin taking note of changes in behavior. These may manifest as increased secrecy or a lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy.

You may be unsure if there is an issue that warrants concern. To help with this, we at The Forum offer psychological evaluations to determine what mental health concerns are present. Our San Diego team provides you with the information you need to make the best treatment decisions for your teen. If you are concerned your child may be misusing prescription drugs or has a substance use disorder, contact us today.