Category: Health and Wellness

­­Drug Safety Starts at Home

“But it was ON SALE!”

How many times in our lives do we hear or use that little sentence to justify buying WAY too much of something? Or worse, buying something we really didn’t need? Makes running a­­ stable household a bit more challenging, right?

Occasionally, your own doctor can give you more than you really need.  I remember back in 2011 I had hip and knee surgery at the same time. In fact, I had my entire femur replaced! You’re probably thinking, “Man, I bet that hurt!”

It wasn’t all that comfortable, but it was actually manageable pain. Although – the doc sent me home with a prescription for pain medicine. When we got it filled, I ended up with a HUGE bottle (like 90 pills!) of opioid painkillers. I think I only took about four of them, and we ended up throwing the rest away, not knowing any better, with the regular trash.

Nowadays, health care providers are much more cautious about how they prescribe such potentially dangerous drugs. And we’ve learned that way too many addictions start in the home medicine cabinet, with leftover pain medicine. So, we’re going to do something about that.

Pills Can Kill

Here at Blue Cross, in keeping with our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians, we do our best to help families learn about prescription drug safety.

And the thing is, when taken incorrectly or used by someone other than whom it was prescribed for, prescription medications can be as dangerous as illegal drugs. As we think about how we can keep our homes and families safe, it’s important to be aware of that.

I’ve written before about our efforts to lower risks of prescription drug abuse, led by our outstanding clinical team that includes physicians, pharmacists and other health care professionals. I’ve also shared how we are addressing the opioid epidemic, as we see increasing numbers of people abusing drugs prescribed to treat pain and escalating to higher-dose drugs that can be very dangerous.

If you’ve watched the news lately, you’ve no doubt heard about increasing overdose deaths from fentanyl. This is a really potent, synthetic opioid that’s up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl is used for legitimate medical purposes, but law enforcement authorities here in Louisiana and across the U.S. are seeing a rise in illegal fentanyl and related substances being added to or made to look like other pills . And that is happening in lots of cases without the user’s knowledge. In a lot of fentanyl overdose deaths being reported, people thought they were taking a prescription or other drug and instead consumed a lethal amount of fentanyl.

That’s why it’s important to always get your prescription drugs or order them online or by mail from a legitimate, reputable pharmacy. Do not order medications from other online retailers or buy them directly from people, even if the pills are labeled as a prescription or look like other medications you take.

Often, though, prescription drug safety starts at home. Well, cleaning out your home, to be precise.

Studies show that many teenagers get high for the first time on prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets. Home access can also mean prescription drugs getting into the wrong hands. Younger children, the elderly and even pets can get very sick if they accidentally swallow medicines not meant for them.

Overall, adverse drug events cause more than 1 million ER visits each year.

That’s why Blue Cross is joining local law enforcement agencies and health care organizations to raise awareness about the importance of proper disposal of expired, unused or leftover medications.

Red Ribbon Week and Drug Take Back Day

Oct. 23-31 is Red Ribbon Week, a national drug safety health observance. The Red Ribbon Campaign® is the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation, reaching millions of young people each year. Red Ribbon Week started with activities in schools that empower kids to stay drug free. In recent years, it’s expanded to include larger community events so more folks can get information, resources for help and commit to living a drug-free lifestyle.

It’s also the week of our fall Drug Take Back Day, which is this Saturday, Oct. 29. Blue Cross is joining local law enforcement agencies and health care organizations to host an event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) headquarters, 9000 Airline Highway.

This is a socially distanced, drive-through event –just pull in and let our volunteers collect your old, unused or unwanted medications. Want to see how that works? Check out this handy how-to video (1:03).

Drug Take Back Day is anonymous. No one will ask you questions about what you are dropping off. You can turn in prescription or over-the-counter medications, but please don’t bring sharps. After the event is over, trained law enforcement and clinical personnel will safely dispose of everything collected.

These events can make a big difference for drug safety in just one day. At our spring 2022 Drug Take Back Day in April, Blue Cross and community partners collected 1,000 pounds of medications, getting millions of individual opioid drug units off the streets. You can check out the great results of our spring event in this video (1:00).

Don’t live in the Baton Rouge area? Many law enforcement agencies and community organizations are hosting similar events. You can check out the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Take Back Day website to look for events near you.

While official Drug Take Back Day events are important to raise awareness, Louisianians have a way to get rid of medication safely year-round, thanks to a partnership among Blue Cross, the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators and law enforcement offices throughout the state. Through this partnership, more than 70 secure drug drop boxes are available in parishes all over Louisiana.

See bcbsla.com/safedrugdrop for a map of locations. The boxes are securely installed, typically housed within law enforcement agencies and available 24/7. All turn-ins are anonymous; no questions will be asked.

Thank You, Pharmacists!

As we talk about drug safety observances, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our outstanding pharmacy team. Blue Cross employs a dedicated team of 12 clinical pharmacists, plus pharmaceutical analysts and other staff members.

These folks provide and manage pharmacy benefits that support safe, effective and cost-conscious medication use to treat our members’ health problems. Since prescription drug costs are a frequent topic in the meetings and presentations I attend around the state, I spend a LOT of time with our pharmacy team. I’m always amazed by their knowledge, dedication and compassion. And, the things I have learned from them have been the basis of many topics you’ve encountered here at Straight Talk! They have trained the trainer, so to speak.

National Pharmacy Week was earlier this month (Oct. 16-22), and I join my Blue Cross colleagues in honoring the valuable services of our in-house team and all pharmacists who help Louisianians make the best use of their medicines.

That includes planning and promoting our Red Ribbon Week and Drug Take Back Day activities, so thanks to you all!

Straight Talk is, by taking some time to clean out your medicine cabinets and make plans to safely get rid of anything you don’t need, you could save lives.

Posted on: October 27, 2022

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