News from the Noteworthy: Remove Temptation By Disposing of Unused Medications

News from the Noteworthy

Remove Temptation By
Disposing of Unused Medications

It is not news to anyone that we, as a nation, are in the midst of the worse overdose and drug-related death crisis in the entire history of our country. Based on numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, we have lost 107,000 people to drug overdose in the last 12 months. That number would equal losing about the same number of people who live in Chenango and Otsego counties combined…in one year.

It is a slow-rolling tragedy that causes moms, dads, brothers, sisters, spouses and children to bury a human that is precious to them. There have been over a million (yes, 1,000,000.00) overdose funerals since 1999, the identified beginning of this crisis. It is a real human tragedy that receives far too little attention.

Although much of this crisis is beyond our personal ability to control, there is one really important thing that we can all do to help limit exposure to opioids. It may be obvious, but the number one predictor of misuse of opioids is exposure to opioids. The reason for that exposure doesn’t matter; medical or non-medical. It is the exposure that creates the risk.

We can limit exposure to opioids by cleaning out our medicine cabinets. Youth and adults alike tell us (via surveys) that they often get their first exposure to the drug from other people’s medications. Most people who are prescribed opioids for short term pain management do not finish their prescription. They take the medication for a couple of days, and then an over-the-counter medication does the rest. And, for many of us, it is kind of normal for unused medications to remain in the medicine cabinet or on a shelf somewhere.

Leftover, unused or expired medications are ripe for the taking. The good news is that it is very easy to remove that temptation. Here are the best ways you can clean out your medicine cabinet:
1) Utilize a medication disposal drop box. These are typically located in police stations and pharmacies. Simply use a dark sharpie to cover your name and drop unused medication containers in the box. They are removed and disposed of safely. To find the drop box nearest you, follow this link:
2) Request free medication deactivation bags from LEAF. If you would like to use an environmentally friendly way to dispose of medications at home, deactivation bags are a great way to do that. All it takes is the included activated charcoal and warm water to render medications unusable and easily disposable. You can request deactivation bags at
3) Check the FDA “flush list” for those medications that can safely be flushed. Although we would recommend the previous two options, there are some medications that can safely be flushed down the toilet. If you would like to consult the safe-to-flush list, please check out

Finally, if you are currently taking a prescribed medication with potential for misuse, consider a medication lock box.

They are relatively small and don’t take up much room on a shelf. Most of all, they help to make sure that the only person who has access to the medications is the person who is currently prescribed to take them. Many organizations, including LEAF, provide lock boxes for free. Just reach out and ask.

Let’s keep both our loved ones and our environment safe from unused medications.

Julie Dostal is executive director of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism & Addictions, Oneonta.

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