New study finds parents need to remember to take medication storage precautions

April 30, 2020

The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging parents and all those with medications in the home to remember the importance of safe storage and disposal during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reminder comes at a time in light of a new study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center finding that while 78 percent of Tennessee parents are concerned about their children “becoming addicted to prescription opioids,” more than half of parents do not dispose of unused prescription opioids.  The study surveyed 1,100 Tennessee parents to help gauge parents’ opinions and actions related to prescription opioids.

Stephen Patrick, MD
Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
photo: Anne Rayner; VU

“This release of the poll identified a blind spot for parents,” said Stephen Patrick, MD, a neonatologist at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and director of the Center for Child Health Policy.

“Parents perceive that opioids are risky to children, but not their own children. This may be one reason why we found that most parents are not taking an easy step to protect their children – properly disposing of leftover opioids in their homes.”

Safe storage and disposal of all medications was one of the first recommendations of the AMA Opioid Task Force.

While not specific to parents’ actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Patrick emphasized that the findings are particularly relevant given the likelihood of increased refills and fewer trips to safe disposal sites.

“Certain medications can be safely flushed, and some safely thrown away in the trash if mixed with coffee grounds, cat litter or other garbage,” said Dr. Patrick, who said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has disposal information that everyone can use.

For more information, please contact Dr. Patrick at [email protected].

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