Medication Safety

Prescription drug misuse and abuse is becoming a growing epidemic in the United States.  In New Mexico, medications are the most common substance involved with poisonings.  In fact, medications accounted for 56% of the poisoning cases managed by the New Mexico Poison Center during the last fiscal year.  Furthermore, New Mexico leads the nation in drug overdose death rates.

It is common for individuals to think that prescription drugs are harmless because they are legal.  However, if taken by the wrong person or in the wrong amount, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs, highly addictive and even lethal.  The most dangerous situations occur when individuals combine prescription painkillers with other drugs that cause drowsiness, such as alcohol, valium, sleeping aids, muscle relaxants, etc.  Please first consult with your physician, pharmacist or New Mexico Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) before taking potentially poisonous combinations of drugs.

Medicines are also a common cause of poisonings among young children and, more recently, among adolescents as a source to get "high."  Heart, blood pressure, diabetic, painkiller and anti-depressant medications can be lethal to children in one to two doses.

Those prescription drugs that are commonly abused by teens include oxycontin, vicodin, valium, ritalin and adderall.  Over - the - counter drugs (do not require a prescription), such as cough syrup, are also abused.

Moreover, 64% of teens ages 12 - 17 years who have abused prescription drugs reported that they got them from their family or friends (Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President).  It is recommended that parents begin discussing the dangers of taking drugs with their children at age eight.  If you think that your child is abusing drugs, get help immediately. 



Poison Prevention Tips

Pill Bottles

  • Keep all medicines Up and Away and out of the sight of children.  Medicines are the most common substance involved with childhood poisonings!
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  • Keep all medicines in their original, child-resistant packaging with lids secured tightly.
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  • Follow directions carefully and do not exceed the recommended dose.
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  • Use the measuring device that comes with the medication.
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  • Medicate in a well lit area and with your glasses on.
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  • Keep track of medications taken throughout the day.
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  • Clearly communicate the last time that you gave your child medication(s) to other caregivers.
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  • Use one primary care doctor and one pharmacist.
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  • Avoid taking medications with the same active ingredient together.
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  • If there is someone who is suicidal or addicted to drugs in your household, take care to lock up all medications and get rid of all unused and expired medications.
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  • Learn how to safely dispose of unused and expired medications.

One teaspoon (tsp) = 5 milliliters (ml)   /   One tablespoon (tbs) = 15 milliliters (ml)   /   One cubic centimeter (cc) = One milliliter (ml)



Know Your Medications

Did you know that the average American takes eight or more medications a day?  It can be confusing managing multiple therapies.  You may even feel embarrassed if you make a mistake or have forgotten if you have already taken a pill.

One of the best ways to prevent a medication error is by taking charge of your health and getting the information you need about your medications.  Ask your pharmacist the following questions:

  • What is the name of my medicine?
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  • What condition does my medication treat?
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  • Are there any side effects associated with my medicine?
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  • How much and how often should I take my medicine?
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  • What should I do if I take too much medicine or forget to take my medicine?
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  • Are there other activities, substances or medications that I should avoid while taking this medication?

Please also know that the New Mexico Poison Center is just a phone call away to answer any type of question that you may have about your medications or to help you if you think that you have been poisoned: 1-800-222-1222. (learn more about NM Poison Center services)


Additional Resources

Other helpful resources include: our "Tweens and Teens" Web page; the Ohio State University's College of Pharmacy Generation Rx Initiative Web site; the National Institute on Drug Abuse Web site; and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Web site.

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