March 05, 2012 —

Teen drug abuse is a pretty hot topic right now. It seems everywhere we turn we’re bombarded with statistics and sad stories. It’s probably crossed your mind at least once or twice that you need to secure those meds scattered throughout your home. But, if you’re like most people, you haven’t.

Moms spend vast amounts of time and money to avoid “living with regret” – from car seats to Googling Internet safety. We haven’t assumed “it” won’t happen to us. Let’s not start now – even though our kids are growing up, they still need our protection. They are still curious, exploring and learning. And their friends are too.

Don’t make it easy for them to make a bad, potentially life-altering decision – set them up for success!

I’m a huge advocate of developing a family culture around things such as talking, family activities and meals together that develop strong family ties and help decrease the risks for drug abuse. Drug-proofing your home, physically, and drug-proofing your family are two separate things that go hand in hand.

Simply getting control over the drugs in your home is not all it takes to protect your children. It is, however, a critical component – so here’s a little crash course to help you with the physical side of it. 

Create a Medication Hub

Since one of the primary places teens find medicines to abuse is in their own homes, it is important to keep on top of where the drugs are in your home. Designate a central location in your home as your medication hub and keep it secured. This takes the guesswork out of determining which drugs should be locked up and which should not and becomes a “this is just what we do with our medicine” kind of thing.

It’s much easier to rummage through something behind a locked door than out in a public area.  It’s also much harder to find anything to rummage through if it’s locked away. Your teens and their friends are not likely to break a lock to get to your meds since they don’t want you to know they’re taking any. They may, however, attempt to pick a lock. Thus, carefully select your lock and have as little as possible inside if they succeed.

One of the first things you should do when gathering medicines for your hub is to cull the outdated drugs, the ones that are expired or are for conditions your family no longer has. Less unnecessary medicines in your home mean fewer opportunities for problems.

Simply throwing unwanted medicine in the trash is never a good idea – teens have been known to rifle through garbage for drugs – and also this makes it easy for young kids and pets to be poisoned.

You can dispose of these unneeded drugs by calling your local pharmacy and asking if there is a local “drug drop-off” location OR check out the FDA’s recommendations for safe disposal and a list of drugs considered safe to flush down the toilet.

Now, let’s check out the main rooms in the home where drugs are stored. This is not an all-inclusive list; you will want to do a run-through of all the rooms in your home to make sure you have not overlooked anything.

Kitchen

This kitchen is where I’ve found most people keep the bulk of their medicine. Primarily in the cabinet, but also countertops, windowsills and cute little baskets on the table.

This is where I have my locked medication hub. Since it’s where much of the activity of the day is, it is very convenient. It’s also more of a public location so it’s not so easy for someone to attempt to access, as it would be if this were in a less travelled part of the house.

Bathroom

This is the second most common place I’ve found people keep medicine. Here medicine is found in medicine cabinets, drawers, closets and under counters. Very little of the medicine here is typically needed routinely and could very easily be stored in your medication hub with no strain on your routine.

For what’s left that you want to keep on-hand, I recommend getting a small lock box for your bathroom and keeping just what you need there. If it’s your daily meds, you can use a 7-day pill organizer, fill it with your meds for the week and store the bulk supply in your medication hub.

Bedroom

Parents often keep medicine on or in their bedside table – sometimes sitting out on top of or in the dresser or in the closet.

This, like the master bathroom, may seem like our own private space; however, we all know our kids often wonder in and out at will. So, while it may be private, it is not secure.

Mom’s Purse

While Mom’s purse is technically not a room sometimes it feels as though you have packed half the house when you go out. Often, we carry medicine here just in case we need it while we’re out. Carry as little as you need to get through the day. You can replenish as needed when you get home.

Monitor what’s in there so you can be aware of any missing pills. You may even want to consider letting your teens know you monitor these meds.

Also, be aware of where you store your purse at home. Keep it in a safe place – up high and out of reach if young children are present.

Drug-proofing your home’s physical environment doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be consistent. Developing habits that “tell” you what to do with your medicine in your home, such as a locked medication hub, is one of the best ways to keep control of the medicine you know is in your home. Developing “search and rescue” routines with your teens is one of the best ways to discover what you don’t know is in your home.

Take some time this week to do what you’ve become an expert on through the years – protecting your kids from their innocence and setting them up for success. You won’t regret it.

Susanne Ballard, RPh, is a veteran pharmacist and mother to four daughters. When one of her daughter’s was 2-years-old she ingested medicine in the time it took to fold a load of laundry. Her daughter was unharmed, but the incident ignited her passion for helping families drug-proof their homes. Today Susanne is known as the PharMomAssist for her work to empower parents, grandparents and other adults to keep young children and teens safe from the dangers lurking in medicine cabinets and beyond. Learn more at www.PharMomAssist.com.