June 21, 2018
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Keeping info about medications private the safest thing

By Carol Higgins Taylor

About a month ago, the nation participated in a drug take-back day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This is something that the Penobscot County Triad does regularly with its drug drop-off box, most recently at the fifth annual Senior Expo.

Stationed at the Senior Expo, Chief Deputy Troy Morton filled several large garbage bags with prescriptions, some with a hefty street value. The moral of the story is that seniors typically have a lot of drugs — and there is no shortage of criminals eager to separate you from your medications.

Most of us don’t live our lives shrouded in secrecy, but there is certain information that should always remain private. We are all aware by now not to reveal Social Security and credit card numbers.

Think about when you go to the bank and withdraw money. We are conditioned to speak softly, as it is potentially dangerous to request cash in a loud voice, lest some unsavory character with ill intentions overhear the conversation and forcibly relieve us of our money in

the parking lot.

Think about when you go to the pharmacy. Do you ask the pharmacist for your prescription by its name? For example, do you say, “I’m John Smith. I’m here to pick up my Percocet”? If so, you may get a rude awakening in the parking lot.

Our local law enforcement officers warn the public never to disclose what medication is being picked up at the pharmacy window. Medications are as valuable as money, sometimes more so to addicts who will stop at nothing to get the drugs they want.

Protect yourself and don’t be a victim. It’s unnecessary to reveal the brand or type of medication that you are picking up because the pharmacist who filled the prescription for you already would have that information. All you need to do announce is your name.

Should you have questions about your medication, take a look around you first to make sure no one is within earshot before you ask. Remember that drugs are valuable and there is a real risk of them being stolen. Ask the pharmacist whether there is a place where you could speak privately and if not, use the softest voice possible.

Never chat with other people in line about “what you’re there for,” or compare conditions or treatments. Again, you never know who is listening and could, at that moment, be making a plan to follow you right out the door. Also, have the pharmacist put your prescriptions in a regular bag and not a pharmacy bag.

My intent is not to make you paranoid, although I tend to be and it’s really not so bad. I just want to make you more aware of your surroundings, especially if you have prescription drugs with a proven street value.

I realize this is a sad commentary on the world we live in and that the necessity of being on guard all the time may be depressing, but that’s how it is these days. And the most important thing is to be safe.

So watch your purse, your bank account, your credit card and Social Security numbers and keep your medications close to the vest. Don’t fear that you are being rude. Just as you instructed your children not to talk to strangers, it is time to take your own advice. Be careful of who is listening.

It is always better to be safe than sorry, so rejoice in the fact that you may have outsmarted a thug. Stand up and be counted as a savvy senior rather than a victim.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Email Higgins Taylor at chtaylor@eaaa.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, email info@eaaa.org or log on EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.

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