HOWELL – Even during a pandemic, proper security and disposal of medications remains important for saving lives from accidental poisonings, medication misuse/overdoses, and substance use disorders.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and its heightened emotional, mental, social, and financial stressors, the Howell Township Municipal Alliance is reminding residents to properly and immediately get rid of unused, unwanted medications.
A 2013-2014 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report revealed that 50.5% of those who misused prescription pain relievers in the past year said they obtained the misused prescription pain relievers from a friend or relative for free.
Township Municipal Alliance Coordinator Christa Riddle said, “this is a time of increased uncertainty, stress, and anxiety on many levels for many people. COVID-19 is and will be taking a toll on people’s mental well-being and can present an extra difficult time for those already in recovery from substance use and mental health disorders.”
Riddle added, “more time at home can provide convenient access to the family medicine cabinet and household members’ prescriptions at a point in life when people are mentally more vulnerable.”
“During COVID-19, there has also been an increase in anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and sleep-aid prescriptions,” she added. As to what prescription medications were on the rise during the pandemic, Riddle said that according to recent research in Express Scripts’ “America’s State of Mind Report,” there was a 21% increase in anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and sleep-aid prescriptions between February 16 and March 15, with 78% representing new prescriptions (anti-anxiety prescriptions rose 34.1%, anti-depressant prescriptions rose 18.6%, and sleep-aid prescriptions rose 14.8%).
A new report by the nonprofit group Mental Health America (MHA) found that almost 90,000 Americans say they have developed anxiety or depression as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than 21,000 Americans who completed the group’s free online mental health screening in May said they thought about suicide or self-harm on more than half of the days last month.
Almost 12,000 people reported these thoughts nearly every day. This indicates that anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications may continue to climb in the months ahead, making proper security and disposal of prescriptions of paramount concern.
The following tips will help medications from getting into the wrong hands or being misused:
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications should be stored out of reach and out of sight, preferably in a locked container in their original bottles, labels intact.
- Prescriptions should be taken according to doctors’ specific directions and should not be shared.
- Families should also monitor proper prescription use in seniors.
- Dispose of medications using DisposeRx, at-home disposal packets you can get from the Municipal Alliance.
- Drop off unwanted medications in the 24/7 Project Medicine Drop box at Howell Police headquarters (300 Old Tavern Road).
- Call Howell police for at-home pick-up of unwanted medications (their non-emergency number is 732-938-4111).
Riddle said that Howell is “the only town to our knowledge that provides the police pick-up option.” She explained that DisposeRx packets provide a simple, efficient, and eco-friendly solution targeted for use at the site of the problem – the home medicine cabinet. Residents combine its solution and water to the prescription vial, and a thick gel is formed that makes it unusable and safe to throw away in household trash.
Last June, DisposeRx responded to the Howell Alliance’s initial inquiry about their product by donating 500 packets for distribution at Howell Township community events, which were received with positive feedback about convenience and ease of use.
Riddle said that when the Howell Alliance and DisposeRx connected again at the end of May to discuss how well DisposeRx is working in Howell, the company extended another donation of 200 packets out of concern for prescription and mental health disorder increases during COVID-19.
To pick up your free DisposeRx packets through contactless distribution outside the front entrance of the Howell Township Municipal Building (4567 Route 9 North), contact Riddle at 732-938-4500 ext. 4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.