Heroin is involved in many of the opioid-related deaths, but addiction doesn’t always begin with the use of illicit drugs. Studies have shown that two in three people who currently use heroin started out by using prescription pain medications for nonmedical purposes. Many first-time encounters with opioids happen in homes with leftover medications that were initially prescribed by a physician.
The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that two-thirds of surgical patients end up with unused pain medications, such as oxycodone and morphine, after recovering from a procedure. Because most of us aren’t educated about the risks of keeping unused medication in our homes, these prescribed drugs are often neither secured nor disposed of properly, but stashed in medicine cabinets and bedside table drawers because it seems wasteful to throw them away and we keep them around “just in case.” Getting rid of a bottle of pills may seem like a shuffle step on the long path toward addressing the opioid crisis, but decreasing access to these medications is as crucial as it is easy.
The Addiction Policy Forum is hosting community events across the country to educate the public about the risks of holding onto unused medications and to distribute free Rx disposal kits. The kits include an Rx disposal pouch and educational materials and can be ordered below while supplies last.
We launched this effort to coincide with the start of daylight savings time in hopes that one day soon, Rx disposal will become a biannual ritual—a habit as common sense as adjusting your clocks, flipping your mattress, or replacing the batteries in your smoke alarm. This season, "Spring into Action" and do your part to keep Rx drugs from falling into the wrong hands.
To promote this initiative, we have created a social media toolkit with graphics, suggested posts, and tweets that can be shared across all social media platforms. Download the toolkit below to spread the word!
Rx disposal pouches are easy to use and highly effective. Simply put any unused medication into the pouch, add water (which mixes with chemical properties in the pouch to nullify active ingredients in the medication) and toss it into the trash. You don’t even need to leave your house! Watch a demonstration on how to use the pouches here.
Yes! Follow these instructions to safely dispose of unused medications at home using common household items, or visit the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA's) website to find an authorized drop-off location close to you.
Proper disposal can be tricky - due to the fact that Rx disposal laws differ by state, some medications require specific disposal procedures, and others can pose a significant threat to kids, pets, and even adults and require urgent disposal.
To learn which medications fall into the above categories or to get more information about safe at-home disposal, visit the FDA website or call the DEA’s toll-free hotline: (855) 543-3784.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines prescription opioid misuse as taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed, taking someone else’s prescription (even for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain), or taking a medication to feel euphoria (i.e., to get high).