Ways to safely dispose of unused medications

Topics, What You Should Know

The opioid crisis remains a priority for medical professionals, public health, and law enforcement. In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses. 

Prescription pain medications (commonly called opioids) are often involved in accidental poisonings and intentional misuse which can lead to addiction. If you or a loved one are prescribed opioid pain relievers, store them securely. If you no longer use them, remove the risk from your home.

What do we know about the opioid crisis?
It is estimated that 21-29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
8 – 12% of people using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder.
Nearly 52,000 American children under age 6 were treated at emergency rooms for medicine poisonings – that is an average of one child in the US every 10 minutes. 
3 in 5 teens report easy access to pain medication stored in their parents’ medicine cabinet.

How do I safely dispose of unused medication?

The Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network offers year-round approved opioid collection at various locations. Visit their website to find a location near you:  https://michigan-open.org/safe-opioid-disposal/

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take Back events that are typically hosted by local law enforcement. For more information, call the St. Clair County Sheriff Department at 800-243-DRUG or visit their website: https://www.stclaircounty.org/offices/sheriff/drug_taskforce.aspx

If you are unable to visit a collection site, you can use your household trash as a last resort. Place an unpalatable substance such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter in a plastic bag, mix in opioids (do not crush) and throw in household trash. Be sure to remove the prescription label or scratch out personal information before disposing of the original container.

While flushing medications down the toilet may seem like a safe way to dispose, this pollutes our water and unintentionally exposes humans and wildlife to the chemicals in these medications.