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October is Medicine Abuse Awareness Month and also fall clean-up time for many Minnesota households. That makes it a good time for families to check their medicine cabinets for unused or unwanted prescription drugs and over-the-counter cough medicines, said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.
“Just by keeping these drugs in your household, you could unknowingly be providing easy access to one of the fastest growing categories of abused substances,” Jesson said. “Prescription drug abuse is rising rapidly, especially among teens. When abused, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs and often act as gateway drugs to heroin.”
Countering abuse of prescription drugs is a priority of the State Substance Abuse Strategy being implemented by the Department of Human Services, the departments of Health, Public Safety, Corrections, Education and other agencies as well as the State Judicial Board, Minnesota National Guard/Department of Military Affairs, Minnesota Board of Pharmacy and the Minnesota Health Professional Services Program.
The magnitude of heroin and opiate abuse across Minnesota is at its highest level ever. Addiction treatment admissions for heroin and other opiates accounted for 20 percent of all treatment admissions in the Twin Cities in 2012, second only to alcohol admissions, according to DHS research.
The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, which promotes Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, reports that prescription drug abuse nationally among teens 12 and older increased 20 percent since 2002 and that 5 percent of teens nationally report abusing over-the-counter cough medicine to get high over the last year.
Jesson said prescription drugs can be easy to get, often from family or friends for free or by visitors using home bathrooms.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers these guidelines for drug disposal:
Along with getting rid of unused medication, it’s important to talk to children, family and friends about the dangers of using medicine prescribed to another person, Jesson said.
Drugs most often abused are: