October 28 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Many of us have old prescription medicines we no longer need in our cabinets, or old expired over the counter medicines. Taking expired medications isn’t safe, and storing unneeded medication increases the risk a child could get into the medicines and be poisoned. Other medications are sometimes abused, and these could be taken by teenagers at risk for substance abuse. In order to help people dispose of medicines safely, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is holding an National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on October 28. The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day has a search for collection sites near you.

While it’s best to get rid of old medicines with a prescription drug take back program, if you need to you can dispose of them other ways. The Food and Drug Administration has directions on how to safety throw away old medicines, and has a list of medicines that they recommend flushing. Medicines on the “flush list” are especially dangerous because they are easy to overdose on, and some are frequently abused. If you have one of the medicines on the “flush list” and no longer need it, it is best to get rid of it immediately by flushing it down the toilet instead of waiting for a drug take back event.

April 22 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The US Department of Justice has set aside April 22 as National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.  Many of us have old, partly used up bottles of prescription medicines in our cabinets. These medicines can be dangerous for children who might get into them, and if expired can be dangerous for anyone to take. Having multiple bottles of unneeded medicine also increases your chances of mixing bottles up and taking the wrong medicine or the wrong dose. Instead of throwing these medicines in the trash or flushing them down the toilet, you can turn them in to an authorized collector who can safely dispose of them. You can visit the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day website to find a collection site near you.

While its best for most medicines to return them to an authorized collector, in the case of some especially dangerous medicines if you can’t turn them in right away when you no longer need them, you should dispose of them immediately by flushing them down the toilet.  This includes medicines that are frequently misused like fentanyl or oxycodone. You can check the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “flush list” to see if your medicine should be immediately turned over to an authorized collector or flushed when no longer needed.

Authorized collectors are available to take old medicines, including over-the-counter medicines, any time of the year. You can get more information on our fact sheet about leftover medicine.

Ivermectin and COVID-19

There has been a lot of interest recently in ivermectin as a potential drug for treatment of COVID-19.  This is based upon a study showing that when tested on cells grown on culture plates, ivermectin interferes with the replication of the virus that causes COVID-19. However, there is no evidence at this time that ivermectin actually has an effect on COVID-19 when given to people. Many drugs behave differently when given to people than when tested against a layer of cells in a dish, because the body is a much more complicated system.

Ivermectin is approved for use in humans to treat several types of parasites, but is not approved for use against COVID-19. It is also used in veterinary practice. The FDA warns that people should not take ivermectin formulated for animals in an attempt to prevent or treat COVID-19.  Formulations designed for animals can be more concentrated or contain other ingredients that are not intended for use by humans, and can cause overdose or dangerous side effects.  The most effective thing you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. For those who have been uncertain about getting vaccinated because the vaccines were under an emergency use authorization, the FDA recently approved the Pfizer vaccine, Comirnaty.

Virginia Marijuana Laws Changing July 1

On July 1, Virginia’s marijuana laws are changing to allow adults 21 years and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, and to grow in their homes up to four plants per household.  Visit cannabis.virginia.gov for details on the requirements for legal possession of marijuana.

Marijuana is a drug, and is dangerous for children to consume.  Store marijuana, including whole plants, out of reach of children.  Be especially careful with edibles such as candies and baked goods.  These are attractive to children and they could easily eat a very high dose.

If a child consumes marijuana, or if you are concerned about an adult’s reaction after consuming marijuana, contact the National Poison Centers’ hotline at (800) 222-1222.

Poison Prevention Week 2021

This week, March 18-24, is National Poison Prevention Week.  This is a week set aside every year for poisoning awareness.  Most poisonings happen in the home, through exposure to substances such as carbon monoxide, medications, or household cleaners.  You can make your home more safe by installing a carbon monoxide detector, securing medications and safely disposing of medications you no longer need, storing household cleaners safely, and choosing less hazardous cleaners.

If someone in your home may have been poisoned, such as by taking too much medicine or being exposed to a household cleaner, the National Poison Centers can help.  If a person is unconscious or not breathing, call 911. If they are not in immediate danger, call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) to be connected with a local Poison Control Center. A poison expert will answer your questions and help you determine if medical help is necessary.

Visit Poison Help for more information.

National Poison Prevention Week 2021, March 21 – 27

This coming week is National Poison Prevention week, a week dedicated to raising awareness to poison control centers and the Poison Help Hotline (1-800-222-1222). The American Association of Poison Control Centers has events scheduled throughout the week to help you and your children learn about how to prevent accidental poisonings.

Poison Prevention Week 2021 Event Schedule


Safety of Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine

The COVID-19 pandemic has many people searching for remedies to prevent or treat the disease. In particular, recent media coverage of clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine (brand name Plaquenil, among others) and a similar medication called chloroquine (brand name Aralen) have led some people to take these without a doctor’s prescription, or to take a higher dose than what they have been prescribed. 

In the United States, hydroxychloroquine is approved for the treatment of malaria, systemic lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Chloroquine is approved for the treatment of malaria. While they can be very effective in the treatment of certain conditions, side effects and toxicity can occur at even regularly prescribed doses.  

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine toxicity can involve almost every organ system. Effects may include headache, vision or hearing changes, low blood potassium, and changes in heartbeat. If used without a doctor’s supervision, in combination with other medications, or by someone with underlying medical problems, side effects can include irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), seizures, and heart failure leading to death. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends no one take hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to prevent or treat COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial because of the risk of heart failure.  This medication and substances related to it (including those found in fish tank additives) should never be taken without a physician’s approval. 

If you have taken hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine and are concerned about the possibility of side effects, call your doctor or the Poison Control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.  For more information, see the Blue Ridge Poison Center’s article on hydroxychloroquine.

Safe Use of Household Cleaners

Because of COVID-19, many people are wondering how they can clean surfaces in their household to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.  The Centers for Disease Control has guidance on how to clean and what products will kill the COVID-19 virus. While cleaning can help the spread of illnesses, even regular household cleaners can be dangerous if they aren’t used properly.

Follow these guidelines for safety:

  1.  Don’t mix different cleaners together.  Chemicals in different cleaners can react to produce irritating or even poisonous gases. Don’t reuse bottles.
  2. Follow the directions on the bottle.  Store the cleaner in its original bottle, and make sure the label can be read. Some cleaners can cause skin and eye burns, so be sure you are wearing gloves and eye protection if recommended.  Some cleaners are not intended to be used on food contact surfaces.
  3. Don’t get the cleaner on your skin or in your mouth.  Even relatively mild cleaners can cause skin irritation if allowed to stay on the skin and vomiting if swallowed.  Stronger cleaners can cause severe burns.  Follow the directions on the bottle if the cleaner gets in your mouth or on your skin. If the label says to get medical help, call 911.  If you aren’t sure what to do, call the Poison Control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
  4. Store cleaners out of the reach of children and pets.  They should be stored in a locked cabinet or in a high place where children can’t reach and they can’t accidentally fall out. Teach children not to touch cleaners until they are old enough to clean safely.

Pool Chemical Injuries

Treating pools with chemicals is important to prevent the spread of disease.  However, improper storage or use of these chemicals can cause injury.  Most chemicals used to treat pools contain chlorine or bromine, which can irritate the skin, eyes, mucous membranes, and respiratory tract.  Treatment primarily consists of removal from the source and supportive care

Most of these injuries take place at private residences, so it is important to use pool chemicals properly and keep them safely stored away from children and pets.  For more information, visit the Blue Ridge Poison Control Center website: https://med.virginia.edu/toxicology/wp-content/uploads/sites/268/2019/06/Jun19-PoolChemicals.pdf


What is kratom?

Kratom is an herbal extract made from the leaves of a tropical evergreen tree. It is sold as a herbal supplement in the United States. Kratom has some properties similar to opiates, but also can act as a mild stimulant. Some people take kratom to reduce opiate cravings or treat pain. Others take it recreationally, believing it helps improve mood.

Why am I hearing so much about kratom lately?

Kratom was first introduced into the US in the late 1990s and for years its use was very limited. In recent years kratom use has become much more common, possibly because of the opiate epidemic and people trying to use kratom to reduce their dependence on opiates. A new study on Poison Control Center calls related to kratom found they’ve become much more common in the past few years. In 2011 Poison Control Centers received 13 calls about kratom. This rose to 682 in 2017, and two-thirds of the 1807 kratom-related calls between 2011–2017 happened in 2016 and 2017.

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