Drugs & Health Blog

A Teen Scientist Asks: How Can Parents Safely Manage Medicines in the Home?

Emily Garcia

Image by NIDA

The NIDA Blog Team

One of the “honorable mentions” at NIDA’s 2018 Addiction Science Awards went to a project on safe drug disposal by Emily Garcia of Texas, on the importance of parents safely managing medicines in the home. We asked Emily about her project.

First, what do you love about science and research?

Science and research allow you to fully explore the world and gain an understanding of the things you find most interesting. And, I love that you can always learn more—the exploration never ends!

Why did you want to do a project on drug disposal?

The statistics about the growing opioid epidemic in my community, San Antonio, Texas, are shocking. I became interested in safe drug disposal because I think it’s the best way to make sure that medications aren’t intentionally misused. Initially, I wanted to focus my research on adolescents, but I realized it would be more beneficial to work with parents because they’re the ones most likely to handle medications in the home.

What did you find that most surprised you?

Knowledge about drug storage safety was not the most significant indicator of parents’ intentions to store their medications safely. It was “self-efficacy”—a person’s confidence that they can and will succeed at something.

What were some of the challenges you faced while working on this project?

The hardest part was recruitment. I created an online survey to collect data for my project. This allowed people to complete the survey at home or wherever they access the Internet. Many people were accessing the survey, but only a few were completing it. That meant I was getting some data, but not all the data that I needed. I worked hard to invite more participants to complete the survey: I followed up with the people that we had already asked to take the survey, and I invited others to take the survey, too.

What’s your next project or science interest?

I’m working on the next step of my research. I want to find out if providing parents with information about safely storing their medications will improve their confidence and ability to properly store medicines. I’m also working to find out if increasing parents’ self-confidence about storing medicines can actually improve their medication safety practices. To answer these questions, I’m working directly with parents through interviews, focus groups, and observation. 

Do you have any suggestions for a young person who’s interested in doing scientific research?

Find something you’re interested in and do as much research as possible on it. Don’t let bumps in the road stop you from pursuing your scientific interests. Also, try not to worry about winning a science fair or an award, because a love for science and research is the real fuel for scientific success.

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