Magazine article Drug Topics

Educating Patients in Drug Disposal

Magazine article Drug Topics

Educating Patients in Drug Disposal

Article excerpt

Unused medications pose a public safety issue, especially when not handled or disposed of properly. Prescription drugs, taken without physician supervision or authorization, can lead to accidental poisoning, overdose, and/or abuse. In recent years, hospitalizations and deaths from use of opioid analgesics and psychoactive medications have increased.


Those who do not dispose of medications may hoard them in their homes or give them to friends or family. These actions directly contribute to drug diversion. Medications are commonly stored in household bathrooms and kitchens, without locks or security measures. This is a concern in the case of adolescents and young adults, who may have unsupervised access.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2000 and 2009, fatal poisonings in 15- to 19-year-old patients increased 91%, partly because of a jump in opioid overdoses. Also, college students daim to obtain medications from their peers. Drug-sharing is equivalent to self-medicating and is dangerous, since the identity and purity of the medication cannot be ensured.

Education is crucial if society is to address this issue. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), if patients discard medications with their trash, they should follow these steps:

* Take drugs out of their original containers.

* Mix drugs with undesirable substances, such as cat litter or coffee grounds.

* Put the mixture into disposable containers with lids, such as margarine tubs, or sealable bags.

* Conceal personal information on the original containers with permanent marker/duct tape or remove by scratching it off.

* Place the sealed container with the mixture, along with the empty drug containers, in the trash.

These tactics discourage others from rummaging through trash. However, determined individuals will go to great lengths to obtain a drug. FDA has compiled a list of especially harmful medications that should be flushed to reduce the risk of unintentional use. Opioids compose the bulk of the list.

Questions about these practices may arise, particularly in relation to contamination of the water supply. Dmg take-back programs remain the gold standard for proper disposal.

Take-back programs

Increasingly popular over the last several years, drug take-back programs staffed by pharmacy and other healthcare professionals, or law-enforcement officials, have sprung up in many communities, often at police precincts or local pharmacies. In 2010, the Dmg Enforcement Administration (DEA) started a take-back initiative, designating certain days as "National Prescription Dmg Take-Back Days. …

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