Description of Strategy
Proper medication disposal provides ways for people to safely and responsibly get rid of controlled substances that they have in their household. The primary objective of proper medication disposal is to limit access and availability, as well as raise awareness of prescription drug misuse.
According to the Wyoming Department of Health, prescription medication should be disposed of in the following manner:
- Keep the medication in its original container! The labels may contain safety information and the caps are typically childproof. Scratch out the patient’s name or cover it with permanent marker. Be sure to leave the content information clearly visible.
- Modify the contents to discourage consumption!
- Solid medications: Add a small amount of vinegar to pills or capsules to partially dissolve them. The pungent vinegar smell will hopefully keep pets, other animals and young children away from the container.
- Liquid Medications: Add enough table salt, flour, charcoal, or non-toxic powdered spice (such as turmeric or mustard) to make a pungent, unsightly mixture that discourages anyone from ingesting it.
- Blister Packs and patches: Wrap patches and packages containing pills in multiple layers of opaque tape, such as duct tape.
- Seal and conceal! Tape the medication container lid shut with packing or duct tape. Place it inside a non-transparent bag or container like an empty yogurt or margarine tub to ensure that the contents cannot be seen.
- Discard the container in your garbage can! DO NOT PLACE IN THE RECYCLING BIN! Do NOT conceal medicines in food products because they may be inadvertently consumed by wildlife scavengers.
Furthermore, those looking to dispose of their prescription drugs can use a system such as the Deterra Drug Deactivation System, to neutralize unwanted prescription drugs. Using a biodegradable pouch, people can easy and safely dispose of unwanted opioids and other prescription drugs in an environmentally safe manner. Once neutralized, the entire pouch can be thrown away into the household garbage.
In Wyoming, local communities have drug drop-off bins, where people can anonymously and safely dispose of prescription drugs. Residents can find locations through the Wyoming Opioid Epidemic Information Portal, or by contacting a local pharmacy. Likewise, the Wyoming Department of Health currently makes funding available for purchasing safe disposal methods and storage units.
Discussion of Effectiveness
The academic evidence that suggests drug disposal programs are an effective strategy for decreasing opioid use disorder is mixed. Egan et al. (2017) finds these policies have a minimal impact on the availability of opioids within the community. However, de la Cruz et al. (2016) find that educational programs concerning the proper disposal of opioids for cancer patients leads to a greater awareness of the danger of opioids, and a decrease in the likelihood that patients use and dispose of opioids improperly.
de la Cruz, M., Reddy, A., Balankari, V., Epner, M., Frisbee-Hume, S., Wu, J., Liu, D., Yennuraialingam, S., Cantu, H., Williams, J., & Bruera, E. (2017). The impact of an educational program on patient practices for safe use, storage, and disposal of opioids at a comprehensive cancer center. The Oncologist, 22(1), 115–121.
Egan, K. L., Gregory, E., Sparks, M., & Wolfson, M. (2017). From dispensed to disposed: Evaluating the effectiveness of disposal programs through a comparison with prescription drug monitoring program data. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 43(1), 69–77.