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The Ohio Department of Aging

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CONNECT TO | Health & Wellness
November 2010

Prescription drug abuse
Combating Ohio's epidemic

Each day, as many as four Ohioans die because of drug-related overdoses. Prescription drug abuse is a rising public health problem that has reached epidemic level in Ohio. Ohio's death rate due to unintentional drug poisoning has increased more than 350 percent from 1999 to 2008, and is now the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes and suicide. Prescription pain relievers were associated with more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined in 2008.

Prescription drug abuse

In addition to the loss of human life, drug overdoses have high direct and indirect costs. Unintentional fatal poisonings cost Ohioans $3.5 billion on average each year, including medical costs, work loss and quality-of-life loss, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Non-fatal, hospital-admitted poisonings cost an additional $31.9 million.

A recent national study found that 53 percent of people aged 18 to 25 obtained prescription pain relievers free from family members or friends for nonmedical use. In some cases, older adults may have forgotten about medications stored away or they may have wanted to help family members who are in pain.

To lessen the risk of unintentional overdose or abuse, take time to understand how to properly store and dispose of unused or expired prescription medication.

Prescription medications should always be stored out of the sight and reach of anyone who might misuse them. Keep all prescription drugs in their original containers and make sure medication is properly labeled so that you can easily identify the contents. Count how many pills are left in the bottle to monitor the use of the medication. Lock all medication in a secure cabinet.

To dispose of expired or unused prescription medication, do not flush it down the toilet or drain. Instead, check to see if your community has a drug take-back or hazardous waste collection program that will collect unused or expired prescription medication. If collection options are not available:

  • Take unneeded prescription medication out of the original container and mix with garbage, coffee grounds, cat litter or sawdust.
  • Place mixture in a disposable container with a lid or a sealable plastic bag.
  • Place sealed container in the trash.
  • Remove all personal information from the empty medicine bottle and dispose of the bottle.

The Ohio Department of Health has launched a comprehensive education and awareness campaign, known as Prescription for Prevention: Stop the Epidemic (www.p4pohio.org), to combat the epidemic of prescription drug overdose and abuse. Additional information on Ohio's efforts to address the prescription drug overdose issue can be found on the Ohio Drug Poisoning website.

Prescription drugs are safe and effective when used as directed, but are just as dangerous and deadly as illegal street drugs when used incorrectly.

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Flu shots
This season, people 65 years and older will have two flu shots to choose from - a regular dose flu vaccine and a new flu vaccine designed specifically for people 65 and older with a higher dose. This should result in a stronger immune response. Both vaccines will protect against the same three flu viruses. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the best option for you.

New caregiver guide released on dementia
"Guide to Living with Dementia," free for download from the Homewatch Caregivers' website, offers realistic help and resources for real-life dilemmas. Practical information includes tips on communicating with loved ones experiencing dementia, dealing with behavior issues related to dementia and self-help and wellness tips for family caregivers.