The misuse and abuse of opioids is a pressing public health issue in the United States — and especially in the Massachusetts area — with over 1,000 opioid-related deaths recorded in the state in 2014, as reported by the Boston Globe.
Articles in the June and July issues of Network Matters addressed the safe and appropriate prescribing of opioids for the the treatment of chronic pain and the management of acute pain, but an equally important topic is the safe storage and disposal of opioids.
Because people who abuse prescription drugs commonly get them from family and friends, appropriate medication disposal is an effective strategy in preventing potential abuse. Patients prescribed opioids to manage acute and chronic pain should be informed of the key steps in ridding their homes of leftover medications, as well as the existence of convenient take-back programs and drop box locations.
Home disposal of unused medications
The Massachusetts Medical Society website provides helpful information you can share with your patients about the proper home disposal of unused prescription medications, to avoid them falling into the wrong hands. The website details steps that should be taken, such as mixing the drugs with unappealing substances like coffee grounds and kitty litter in sealed plastic bags before throwing them in the trash.
As a reminder, your patients should be made aware that pills should not be crushed, and unless the directions on the packaging specifically say otherwise, medications should never be flushed down the drain or toilet.
Take-back programs and drop box locations
Many communities sponsor take-back days for unused medications, and your patients can contact their local law enforcement agencies to inquire about programs in their area. They can also search on RxDrugDropBox.org to find the locations of leftover medication drop boxes near them. Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will sponsor a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
on September 26, 2015, and the website will list collection sites as of September 1.
By keeping patients informed of the proper methods and resources for storage and disposal of medications, and by limiting the amounts of opioids they are prescribed, providers can play a pivotal role in preventing substance abuse.
For information about Harvard Pilgrim pharmacy programs and medication policies, please visit our Pharmacy Program online.