Doctor says safer prescription pill storage is key to fighting opioid epidemic

Many opioid additions begin in medicine cabinets

By Frank McGeorge, MD - Medical Expert, Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - Health experts say a simple switch could cut off the supply for millions of would-be opioid abusers and stop addiction before it starts.

For many people, opioid addiction begins at home. Teenagers in particular might start by sampling prescriptions that are found in the bathroom at home or in someone else's home. Keeping pills in standard bottles contributes to the problem.

As the country grapples with the opioid abuse epidemic, doctors, researchers and politicians are searching for ways to stem the crisis.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people are most likely to begin abusing drugs as teenagers.

"They'll go into a cabinet at a friend's house and say, 'I've got a headache. Can I get some Advil?'" Dr. Sean Serell said. "Typically, a lot of people store their old prescriptions right by their Advil, and those teens will go in there and sample a few."

Serell said he thinks that can be prevented.

"Child-resistant caps came out because children were getting into medications and dying," Serell said. "Especially aspirin overdoses. I think if we could see a similar change with the adoption of a national requirement that medications of potential abuse be stored in a locking container and dispensed from pharmacies that way."

Serell created a locking prescription vial that works like a bike lock. It shows proof if it's tampered with and can be purchased online or at select pharmacies. Other options include medication safes.

The goal is to make sure the only person using the prescription is the person it's intended for.

"We need to prevent, and step up what we're doing right now, to prevent the next generation from going down that road," Serell said.

Most people believe their children, grandchildren or family members would never go through their medicine cabinet, but children are curious. The potential source of opioids could be shut down if it's given more attention.

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