By LaKeshia N. Myers
April 21, 2016, is a date that I will never forget, it was the day “His Royal Badness”, Prince, passed away. While I was sorrowful that one of my favorite music artists had transitioned, I was even more saddened to learn the cause of his death, accidental overdose. According to the National Medical Association, June is Medication Safety Month.
According to Dr. Belinda Lear, “Medication safety is an important topic that we as providers and patients often overlook. While we often focus on why we should take medications, we need to be aware of the potential adverse effects from medicine, which can include: allergic reactions, side effects, over-medication, medication errors and abuse” (Lear, 2022).
Adverse effects of medications cause more than one million emergency room visits and over 280,000 hospitalizations each year. It is also estimated that the United States spends $3.5 billion each year for medical costs related to adverse effects from medication (Lear, 2022).
Ensuring we take medication adequately is a family affair. Doctors warn that prescription drugs such as insulin, Vicodin and other pain killers should not be traded with family members and over the counter medications such as cough syrup should also be kept out of the reach of children and teenagers. Older adults must also keep track of their medications and ensure they are taking the correct dosages of medications. Enlisting the help of a friend, spouse, or child can help. If you live alone, feel free to contact your local pharmacy to ask for help.
It is also important to avoid purchasing prescriptions from unauthorized vendors. In the case of Prince, he died of an accidental overdose of imitation Vicodin, which was laced with the street drug fentanyl. Fentanyl is commonly mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine and made into pills that are made to resemble other prescription opioids. Many of the individuals purchasing these counterfeit drugs are unaware that they include fentanyl and it has caused many fatalities.
As more Americans are reliant on prescription drugs to maintain their quality of life, it is paramount that consumers remain abreast of the safest ways to access and dispose of medications.
If you have questions regarding safe access or disposal of prescription medications, please contact the pharmacy at Milwaukee Health Services (414) 372-8080. Together, we can do better to protect our community.