By Salita Brown, Project Manager – Oct. 8, 2019

Addiction…overdose…death…all of these serious consequences have become synonymous with opioid use.

Opioids are very powerful drugs that have received a lot of news coverage lately. However, through all of the coverage the reason opioids have become so addictive has gotten lost.

So, what exactly is an opioid?  Why are people addicted to them?  According to the Mayo Clinic website, mayoclinic.org, an opioid is a broad group of pain-relieving drugs that work by interacting with the opioid receptors in your brain cells, meaning an opioid can temporarily control your brain.

Opioids trigger the brain to release a signal that lessons your perception of pain and increases your feeling of pleasure. This feeling of pleasure, though temporary, has led to repeated overdoses. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently reports 130 people die every day from opioid-related overdoses.

This crisis is one that everyone can help combat, even if you think it does not affect you directly. One of the easiest methods to combat this problem is proper disposal of unused medications.  All unused/expired medications become quite dangerous when found by the wrong person. This is especially dangerous when medications find their way into the hands of a child.

In order to help prevent this issue it’s best to get those medications out of your home. You might think you need to go to your medicine cabinet and flush those unused pills down the toilet or maybe throw them directly into the trash. You are not entirely wrong, but both of those disposal methods require a couple more steps in order to be effective.

So, what exactly is the proper means for disposing of your expired or unused prescriptions? One option is to bring the unwanted medications to an authorized collector.  An authorized collector will simply take the medications, with no questions asked, and properly dispose of them for you. To find an authorized collector near you, please call the DEA Office of Diversion Control at 1-800-882-9539.

Another option is to flush your unused medications down the toilet. However, before you rush to flush all of your medications, please be advised that not all medicines are recommended for flushing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of medicines approved for flushing that can be found by checking their website at www.fda.gov.  If your medication is not on the approved list, you can always take it to an authorized collector or utilize the next option.

The Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) is now providing Indiana fire departments with safe drug disposal pouches to distribute across the state. Drugs can be emptied into the pouch, and when water is added, chemicals in the pouch dissolve the medications safely. Contact your local fire department to request a safe drug disposal pouch to dispose of medications properly.

The final disposal option is to throw the medications in the trash. Proper trash disposal requires that the medication be mixed, not crushed, with an inedible substance and closed firmly in a container or plastic bag. If you choose to dispose of the medication in its original pill bottle, it is recommended to scratch off or remove any identifying labels.

Now that you know the proper method for disposing those unused prescriptions, take time to rid your home of them in a safe manner.  Proper prescription medication disposal may not solve the opioid crisis, but it certainly will not worsen it. If anything, safe-proofing your home for your loved ones is an excellent reason to properly dispose of unused/expired medications.

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