Fall 2017

Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse

Follow these guidelines for safe handling of pet prescriptions.

By Genevieve Rajewski

Illustration: Martin León Barreto

Pet medications, just like human ones, carry potential risks for accidental poisoning or intentional abuse. “The good news is veterinarians are taking the lead in helping prevent misuse of the medicines they prescribe,” said associate professor Elizabeth M. Byrnes, who studies the effects of opioids in her neuroscience lab at Cummings School.

To help ensure that pet medication is used only as prescribed, the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, the teen substance-abuse prevention group Decisions at Every Turn (where Byrnes volunteers), and Cummings School have become partners in a multipronged public-education campaign geared toward pet owners and veterinarians. They shared these guidelines for safe handling of pet prescriptions:

• Store medication in its original container, always secure the safety cap, and lock it in a safe or lock box away from human meds.

• Always check the label every time before using or giving medications.

• When giving pets medication, make sure pets finish them before a child is allowed nearby.

• To monitor for possible human abuse, make sure that the amount remaining in the container is correct.

• Bring unused medications to secure medication drop-off boxes. (To find one in Massachusetts, visit mass.gov/DrugDropbox.)

• Do not flush medicines down the drain unless specified by the label or accompanying prescription information.

• Be aware that certain dangerous drugs, such as fentanyl patches, may require special disposal. If you’re not sure, call your veterinarian.

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