"However, we should be careful that in our efforts to keep prescription drugs out of the wrong hands, we don't withhold them from those in true need," Katz added. "Both narcotic abuse and inadequate treatment of chronic pain are important problems, and we should not fix one by compounding the other."
Delany believes doctors must discuss the proper use of these painkillers with their patients. Pharmacists are also key educators and can tell patients how to dispose of the unused portion of a prescription, he said.
The problem of drug misuse also takes its toll on children. Earlier this month a CDC report found that one in five high school students in the United States has taken a prescription medication that was not prescribed for them.
And last August the CDC reported that the leading cause of accidental poisonings among American children can be found in the family medicine cabinet.
Each year in the United States, more than 71,000 children aged 18 and younger are seen in emergency rooms for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, according to the report.
There's more on safely disposing of prescription drugs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
SOURCES: Peter Delany, Ph.D., director, Office of Applied Studies, U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; June 18, 2010, CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
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