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Over the last several years there has been a huge push to educate people about the dangers of keeping unused medication around the home and encourage Americans to safely dispose of their prescription drugs—especially opioid painkillers. A significant number of people first acquire a prescription narcotic through diversion, getting their hands on such drugs through a friend or a family member.

Despite calls to action for safely disposing of used medications, many teenagers and young adults still manage to acquire painkillers in the family medicine cabinet. Parents are oftentimes unaware that anything is amiss in their medicine chest. Parents are the first line of defense at home in preventing medication diversion, yet parents are rarely instructed about what to do with unused medication by prescribers, according to new research regarding children’s prescription narcotics.

Children are usually sent home with some form of prescription painkiller after surgery or painful illness. The drugs will be doled out by parents until their child’s pain subsides, but parents do not always safely dispose of the unused medication which could be risky. A new poll shows that nearly half of parents do not dispose of their children’s unused prescription opioids, HealthDay reports. What you may find even more alarming is that about a third of parents report that their child had been prescribed an opioid painkiller, most commonly:

  • Oxycontin (oxycodone)
  • Percocet (oxycodone/paracetamol)
  • Vicodin (hydrocodone)

The findings come from a poll of nearly 1,200 parents with at least one child ages 5 to 17, according to the article. The research indicated that 30 percent disposed of the drugs in the trash or toilet, nine percent said they didn’t remember what was done with the drugs and only 8 percent returned medication that was unused to their pharmacy or doctor. Six percent of parents said that the unused medication ended up being consumed by other family members.

“We found that the amount of pain medication prescribed for children is frequently greater than the amount used, and too few parents recall clear direction from their provider about what to do with leftover medication,” said Sarah Clark, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, in a news release.

“This is a missed opportunity to prevent prescription drug misuse among children,” she added. “Many parents simply keep extra pain pills in their home. Those leftover pills represent easy access to narcotics for teens and their friends.”