Kevin Osterhoudt, MD, MSCE, Jeanette Trella, PharmD, BCCPS, and Lauren Longo, MSPH Kevin Osterhoudt, MD, MSCE, Jeanette Trella, PharmD, BCCPS, and Lauren Longo, MSPH Kevin Osterhoudt, MD; MSCE, is Medical Director of the Poison Control Center (PCC) at CHOP; Jeanette Trella, PharmD, BCCPS, is PCC Managing Director; and Lauren Longo, MSPH, is PCC’s health education specialist.

Some of the most heart-wrenching cases we handle at the Poison Control Center at CHOP are the result of easy access to unsecured over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines, often among toddlers or young adults.

Healthcare providers can help us spread best practices for preventing poisonings. Whether you care for toddlers, adolescents, or their caregivers, you can provide education with the goal of preventing harm and saving lives. Share these tips:

Families should monitor and secure all medications in the home

  • Encourage families to take note of how many pills are in each prescription bottle and keep track of refills. The need for earlier-than-anticipated refills could indicate a problem.
  • Pay attention to your child’s prescribed medicine by monitoring dosages and refills, especially with medicines known to be addictive and commonly abused, like opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants.
  • Avoid purchasing large quantities of OTC and prescription medications, especially if someone in your household has a history of depression.
  • Secure all prescriptions and OTC medications in a safe place. If needed, lock them away.
  • Encourage relatives to regularly monitor the medicines in their homes, too.

Encourage families to routinely safely dispose unused or expired meds

  • First choice: Encourage families to locate their closest year-round drug take-back site (often a local police station) and to get in the practice of taking their prescription medicines there.
  • Second choice: The Poison Control Center at CHOP offers families safe home disposal tips on (like mixing medicine with an unpalatable substance like kitty litter, sealing it, and throwing it away). We have also distributed Dispose RX® drug dissolution packets in our community.
  • Third choice: If a drug take-back site is not available, families have the option to flush a small list of dangerous medications found on the FDA’s Flush List, most of which are opioids.
  • Encourage families to pay attention and talk to their teens, and to seek help when needed: Limiting the quantity and controlling access to medications in the home is only part of the solution. Encourage families to maintain awareness about what is going on in their teens’ lives and to have open conversations about mental health, self-care, and risks of drug misuse and development of substance use disorders.

For more information, call your regional Poison Control Center experts at 800-222-1222. CHOP’s Comprehensive Opioid Response and Education (CORE) Program, comprising of its three task forces (Pain Assessment and Management, Substance Use Disorder, and Community Education) can be reached at

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