Virginia Leads the Charge for Safe Drug Disposal

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Across the U.S., 6.5 million people abuse prescription drugs – a large portion of them accessing those drugs from home medicine cabinets. Studies also show that millions of prescribed pills go unused each year. These sit in half-empty bottles – a temptation for teens and other family members to abuse.

In an effort to prevent the abuse of these potentially dangerous medications, authorities in Virginia came up with a whole new program.

Easier, Smarter, Better

On November 1, Virginia began the massive distribution of 80,000 new kits that take an unprecedented approach to drug disposal. They were designed with one thing in mind: the simple disposal of unwanted medications in the home.

Believe it or not, these large pouches can dispose of up to 45 pills. You simply put unwanted pills in the pouch, fill it halfway with warm water, wait 30 seconds, seal it and shake it. (Each pouch contains an active carbon that completely breaks down the medication.) Afterward, the kit is safe to throw away in the trash. How simple is that??

How the New Kits Help

The kits not only make it convenient to dispose of drugs, they also provide an alternative to unhealthy methods of drug disposal. Many people who realize the hazards of keeping drugs around the house get rid of them in unhealthy ways. Throwing pills in the trash can have a negative environmental impact. They can also be fished out of the trash – by children or pets in the home, or by those seeking drugs in garbage bins – and continue to pose danger. The pouches solve this problem.

Note: If pouches such as these are not available, drugs should be mixed with coffee grounds, cat litter or other undesirable substances and disposed of in a sealed container.

Another common practice is to flush drugs down the drain or toilet. While this does get them out of the house and keeps them out of the trash, it also puts them into our water system. Inevitably, some portion sneaks through the sewage treatment process and make its way into the waterways – where it can affect wildlife and sources of drinking water. A safer solution is desperately needed.

Safety, Safety, Safety

Virginia authorities hope their disposal kits will be that safer solution. They believe the kits help with the “leftover drugs” issue in two ways: They simplify the disposal process, making it more likely people will rid their homes of old medications, and they offer a safe, environmentally-friendly way to dispose of drugs.

This initial program includes 50,000 kits to be distributed through the Virginia Department of Health; another 30,000 kits go to law enforcement, hospitals, pharmacies and non-profits. The pouches were donated by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.

Additional Reading:   US Expands Program to Dispose of Prescription Drugs

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