Guard Your Meds: Spreading the Word

Cmdr John Burke
Published Online: Monday, March 19, 2012
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MedGuard Safes can help patients ensure that needed medications, especially controlled substances, remain in the right hands.


Over the past few years, we have found out that prescription drugs are the #1 substance of abuse of teenagers aged 12 to 17 years and one of the significant sources is our own medicine cabinets. Of course, the medicine cabinet is not only a treasure trove of medications for our youth, but also is tempting for anyone who may be visiting your home and decides to stalk your bathroom for pharmaceuticals. 

In addition to the people laying your carpet, delivering your refrigerator, painting your house, or just a friend or neighbor paying a social visit, you have to worry about a realtor’s open house attracting prescription drug seekers. All of these people thrive on 1 thing—that your medications are likely in your medicine cabinet in 1 or more bathrooms, and they are unsecured and ripe for theft. 

One of the traditional methods is to bring unneeded medications to an annual or semiannual prescription take back program (www.projectdrugdrop.com). Law enforcement and the DEA have committed resources for these programs, but they are typically a few hours 1 or 2 days per year. What happens, however, when you need to discard these drugs long before the next scheduled return event in your city? 

Inventory and Discard 

The National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) suggests that you first inventory your prescription medication and discard pharmaceuticals that are outdated or unneeded. If your law enforcement agency has a prescription drug drop box (www.rxdrugdropbox.org), this is probably the best and easiest resource to rid your residence of these medications. If not, grinding them up with undesirable substances like kitty litter, coffee grounds, or baby’s diaper is likely the next best method to ensure safe destruction. 

What about the medications that you do need to retain because you are either taking them regularly, or they may be needed for some reoccurring problem, like a pain issue? These medicines, especially controlled substances, need to be secured where the patient can access them conveniently and quickly, but at the same time keep them secure.

NADDI has partnered with MedGuard Safes (www.medguardsafes.com) to create a safe that sits discreetly inside your own medicine cabinet in your bathroom. Their website describes the simple safe that is only 3.5 inches in depth, and can either be mounted with an incredibly strong tape, or bolted to the wall with hardware that is included. The safes have many features, including a removable pill dispenser that allows the patient to fill it up for a 7-day dispensing regimen either inside or outside the device.

All of these programs mentioned are designed to reduce the availability of prescription drugs to those who would steal, abuse, and/or sell them to others. This has birthed a new project sponsored by NADDI, Guard Your Meds (www.guardyourmeds.org).

Guard Your Meds

The purpose of Guard Your Meds is to continue to raise awareness that unneeded prescription medication in your residence is a recipe for disaster from a variety of sources, most disturbingly, our teenagers. Every day, unknowing legitimate patients enable pharmaceutical addictions or abuse by those who would pilfer these drugs for further illegal acts. The Walgreens corporation has made a decision to sell the MedGuard Safes at their pharmacies, and we are hoping that others will follow suit.

Keeping your medication safe and secure—and still easily available for your use—can mean the difference between your patient being an unknowing collaborator with prescription drug seekers and preventing a tragic ending for a teenager or other loved one. Keeping these medications out of the wrong hands is something everyone can easily accomplish if we all continue to spread the word. PT


Cmdr Burke is commander of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retired commander of the Cincinnati Police Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad. Cmdr Burke is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement and the current president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. He can be reached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, via the Web site www .rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.



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