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Quick Guide to Storing and Disposing of Opioids

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According to the American Medical Association, more than 70 percent of people misusing opioid painkillers first got them from family or friends. And the risk to children is rising. As abuse of opioids grows, safely storing these drugs in your home and getting rid of them when you’re done is key.

Storing opioids safely

According to the American Association of Family Physicians you can store your opioids safely if you keep the following in mind:

  • Store medicine out of reach of all children – toddlers through teens – in a locked cabinet or lockbox.
  • Keep medicine in its original package.
  • Keep track of how much medicine you have taken and how much is left.
  • If you think someone took your opioid medicine, report it to police.

Getting rid of your opioids

If you are done taking an opioid, don't keep any leftovers to use in the future. Both pill and patch opioids often come with disposal instructions.

A good way to get rid of unused medicine is through a "take-back" event. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and local police host take-back events in many cities nationwide. You can also visit the DEA Office of Diversion Control's website at www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov or call the agency's call center at 1-800-882-9539 to find a location. Many larger pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens offer take-back services and/or special disposal bags. Local waste management companies also can direct you to a take-back program.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicates you can also dispose of drugs yourself at any time with these steps:

  1. Remove personal information (your name, address, etc.) from the original container and dispose of it.
  2. Remove medicine from the original container and place in another container, such as a plastic bag.
  3. Add water to medicine and mix with coffee grounds or cat litter.
  4. Seal the bag and place in the trash.
  5. The FDA recommends flushing opioid patches after folding the sticky sides together.

Sources of information for this article and where you can go to learn more include the American Medical AssociationAmerican Association of Family PhysiciansU.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.