Always Dispose of Unused Pain Medication

GenPsych December 2017

How do dispose of unused pain medication

Drug abuse around the world and especially in the United States has reached epidemic levels. The explosive growth in the prescribing and use of opioids has pushed deaths from drug overdoses in the United States to more than 50,000 annually. Every neighborhood, income level, and ethnic group are affected. Drug cartels and “pill mills” grab daily headlines. However, there is another issue, the leftover drugs kept in millions of homes are a significant supply source for addicts and addicts to be. It has never been more important to dispose of your unused medications. It is equally important to know how to get rid of your leftover or unused drugs safely.

Pain medications such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet are widely prescribed every day to patients for legitimate medical reasons. Unfortunately, many people keep their unused medications once the need for the medication has passed. In most cases, people don’t keep these drugs in a hidden or secure place. Unfortunately, this leaves the possibility that curious children can get access to these powerful drugs. This is also the case for anyone in the home who had dealt with in the past or is currently dealing with a drug addiction. Neighbors or visitors to your home can also be a problem. For example, it is well known that teens seeking access to drugs will ofter check the medicine cabinets when they are at a friend’s home. Whatever the circumstances may be, there is a legitimate risk that a drug user could overdose anytime he or she abuses these types of medication. Patients need to understand how important it is to always store their prescription pain medications in a locked cabinet for the safety of everyone.

How to Safely Dispose of Unused Pain Medication  

As a rule, patients should never keep any unused prescription pain medications once the medical issues have passed. When disposing of medication, you should never simply put remaining pills or liquid into the trash. Tossing these drugs out in the garbage may make them accessible to animals, children or addicts. It is always best to keep all your medications locked up until they can be disposed of properly. It is also better not to flush leftover drugs down the toilet. Once drugs are flushed, they can find their way into the local water supply or harm fish and aquatic plants. There are several options available for consumers to safely dispose of their unused medication.

A great place to start is reading the product instructions. If any specific steps are required for safe disposal, they will be stated on the medication container or instruction sheet.

You can also take any unused doses to your pharmacy, hospital or clinic. Even some long-term care facilities serve as medication drop off points.

Many local and state organizations or governments now offer sponsored “Drug Take Back” programs to make it easy for consumers to dispose of unused pain medications.

If your only option is to discard the medication, we recommend crushing the pills and mixing them with another unappealing substance such as used coffee grounds. Then seal them in a plastic bag before throwing them out in the garbage. This is only a last resort if you don’t have access to any of the previous options.

If you or anyone you know may be suffering from a drug addiction, please get help. GenPsych has five treatment locations throughout New Jersey. Don’t wait, start today.

New Jersey Project Medication drop-off locations:

New Jersey Drug Control Unit:

GenPsych Substance Abuse Program:

Further Reading:

Unused pain medication