Prescription medicines have become essential lifelines for many Kentuckians, helping them to better treat their pain, seizures, mental illnesses and other serious ailments.
When patients adhere to the treatments prescribed by physicians, their health and quality of life can often be improved. But the dangers of misuse and abuse are always present, particularly when dealing with powerful opioids to manage pain.
Prescription drug abuse has become one of Kentucky’s most pressing public health epidemics. In recent months, there has been no shortage of news stories about the tragic, often deadly, consequences of drug abuse and addiction.
That’s why the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care and the Kentucky Medical Association are launching Know Your Meds KY. This statewide campaign will encourage patients to look to their physicians for education about how best to use, store and dispose of their medicines in the safest way possible. It will also encourage Kentucky physicians to take an active role in educating their patients about their medications.
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When you are desperate for relief, it is easy to accept a prescription without asking questions. But taking take time to speak with your physician about potential side effects and risks can make a big difference in protecting your own health and the health of others around you.
For example, you may not realize that your new medication can bring on fatigue, nausea, impaired driving or even mental confusion. Or you might not know that a particular drug has high rates of abuse in your area. If patients don’t receive this information from their physicians, they likely won’t hear it at all.
Prescription medicines save lives. But if used improperly, they can also be dangerous, especially if they get into the wrong hands.
Studies have shown that 75 percent of teens say they can access prescription pills at home, and a quarter of them will go on to abuse prescription medicines. Many accidental overdoses occur when individuals abuse medications prescribed to other household members.
Safely storing your medicines will help prevent this. Medicines should always be kept in original packaging. Labels contain important information, including the name of the medicine, dosage instructions and potential side effects. Always be mindful of how many doses should be left so you will notice if any of the medicine goes missing.
Proper disposal of unused medications is also critical. Kentuckians can dispose of unused medications at one of the state’s 190 prescriptions drop boxes. You can visit the Office of Drug Control Policy website to search for a drop box near you.
If you can’t make it to a drop box, you should properly dispose of your medications at home. You can learn more at www.myoldmeds.com.
We can all be part of the solution to Kentucky’s drug abuse problem. But it will take a joint effort by physicians and patients to ensure medications are used for their intended purpose and don’t fall into the hands of those who might abuse them. Know Your Meds KY aims to connect patients and physicians to the information they need to help fight prescription drug abuse.
For more information on safe drug use, storage and disposal, please visit kyma.org/know-your-meds-ky.
Dale Toney, M.D., is a Lexington internal medicine specialist and chair of the Kentucky Medical Association Board of Trustees, the statewide professional organization for physicians.