Prescription Drug Safety

By Ronald G. Rios
Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director
Chairperson, Committee of Public Health and Education

Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, when stored or disposed of carelessly are a danger to everyone in your home, especially curious teens and small children. You might not realize it, but right now in your medicine cabinet or bathroom closet, is a potentially deadly collection of over-the-counter and prescription medications that, when taken in the wrong dose, combined or otherwise abused, can lead to serious health risks.

As parents, we need to teach our children that all drugs can be harmful, especially if they are misused. In their least lethal instances, a large dose of prescription or over-the-counter medications can cause difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and blurred vision, while the worst cases of abuse of these same medications, can lead to coma and even death.


What makes these medications such a serious threat is how readily available they are in our homes. Never assume that your child or teen will not experiment with the contents of your medicine cabinet. Children are curious by nature, especially when it comes to things they know they shouldn’t touch.  The bottom line is if your kids do not have access to these medications, they can’t hurt themselves with them.

Here are some tips for restricting access to prescription and over-the-counter medications in your home:

  • Hide all medications in a secure location, which may not be the bathroom medicine cabinet
  • Alert grandparents who visit or host their grandchildren that their prescriptions should always be locked up and hidden away. This includes individual pills, which curious toddlers may put into their mouths
  • Discuss with neighbors and parents of your child’s friends the importance of keeping prescription medications out of reach
  • Discard any prescription medications that are left over or expired

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Guidelines for the proper disposal of prescription drugs:

  1. Keep medicine in original container.  Mark out personal information on prescription bottles.
  2. Mix liquid medicine with undesirable substances like coffee grinds, cat litter, or dirt.  Dilute pills with water, then add coffee grinds, cat littler or dirt.
  3. Place bottles in an opaque container, like a yogurt container, and secure lid; or wrap in a dark colored plastic bag.
  4. Hide the container in the trash. Do NOT recycle.

We, as parents and caregivers, are the first line of defense in addressing this threat and it is up to us to secure all medications and keep our kids safe.  Let’s all make the effort in our homes to keep unwanted medications out of the wrong hands.

For additional information, contact the Middlesex County Public Health Department at 1-732-745-3100.

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