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Fall clean up should include medicine cabinet

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Fall clean-up typically involves raking leaves, clearing gardens and preparing plants for the winter. Inside our homes the clean-up may involve tasks such as window cleaning, exchanging summer clothes for winter clothes in our closets and just a good all-around cleaning.

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It is suggested to add the cleanup task of the proper disposal of prescription and over the counter medication that has expired or that you no longer use. Medications that have reached their expiration date may have lost the chemical composition that make them effective or may have chemically changed to actually be harmful to you if taken. Medication that is no longer being used may be accidentally ingested by a child or misused by an adult. If you don't need it, get rid of it.

The West Fargo Police Department provides a disposal service for unwanted or expired prescription medication through a drop box in the department's lobby at 800 4th Ave. E. in West Fargo. Medications in pill, tablet or capsule form may be left in the original container or may be emptied in a plastic bag and dropped in the box. Liquid medication needs to be in the original container or other liquid tight container. The drop off process is completely self-serve so others do not know what medication is being disposed of. The program will also accept illegal drugs but sharps such as needles must be packaged to prevent injury to staff. The items collected are destroyed in a Drug Enforcement Administration certified incinerator.

A secondary incentive for the disposal of unused medications and the need for you to monitor the medications you currently use are the intentional theft and misuse of prescription medications. The number of deaths due to overdoses in the United Sates increased from 4000 in 1999 to 16,600 in 2010. Overdose is now the second leading cause of accidental death in this country. (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1308222)

The North Dakota Attorney General's Office and the North Dakota Department of Health have prepared educational materials to inform the public of the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Additional information has been provided on how to safeguard your medications to prevent accidental ingest or theft. The information can be found at: http://www.ag.nd.gov/BCI/PrescriptionDrugAbuse.htm

Real estate agents have been a target of one of the educational campaigns. Prescription drug thefts have been known to occur during an open house or during the showing of a home for sale. Relators are asked to encourage sellers to secure or remove their prescription medications from the home during the time the home is listed for sale.

Educational programs also target the schools on the dangers of misuse and abuse of prescription medication. Law enforcement reports incidents where students who have or are expected to undergo surgery or other medical treatment have been approached by fellow students asking to purchase their prescription pain medication. Many of the pain medications sell on the street for $5 to $30 per dose. Students have been known to give their own medications such a Ritalin to a friend to 'help' them study or to relieve anxiety. Parents should remind their students possessing prescription medication not prescribed to them may be a felony drug charge. Providing medication to another, whether or not money was exchanged, can be considered illegal distribution and the student would be charged as a drug dealer.

It is a misconception that prescription medication is the safe alternative to street drugs. Prescription drugs that are misused or abused can do serious harm. Another misconception is that those responsible for prescription drug theft are mostly strangers. Family members or friends are largely responsible for prescription drug theft from a home. A family member may wish to self-medicate with the prescription of another family member. Someone in your home legally may take your medication to sell or use to satisfy their own addiction. Having access to the medication provides the opportunity; all they need is the desire to commit the act.

Do your part in providing for a safe community. Keep medications in a secured area. Monitor the quantity of the medication so missing medications can be reported. Follow the dosing directions. Safely dispose of expired medication or those medications you no longer use. Help prevent a tragedy.

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