From Seth A. Waldman, MD
Many home medicine cabinets are full of unused, expired prescriptions that build up as time goes by. Especially now, as the United States faces an opioid epidemic, it is vital to dispose of those medications safely.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that more than 70% of people misusing opioids obtain them from a family member or a friend, often given freely or even stolen. Opioids from leftover prescriptions are also taken accidentally, sometimes by children or pets, or found by strangers due to improper disposal methods.
Some of our patients leave Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) with a short-term prescription for opioids and other medications – some of which go unused and expire. Patients often ask us what to do with those medications to ensure they are properly thrown away. The two best options are to:
Here are a few more tips about safe disposal:
Properly disposing of unused medications is one of the most effective ways patients can fight the opioid crisis. By reducing the number of medications that can get into the wrong hands, you are not only limiting your own risk, you are also helping your family, friends and community.