Virginia Will Distribute 80,000 Drug Disposal Kits

By Kelly Burch 10/14/16

Authorities hope the effort will keep dangerous prescription opiates from being left around the house.

Virginia Will Distribute 80,000 Drug Disposal Kits
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Authorities in Virginia will begin distributing 80,000 drug disposal kits on Nov. 1, in an effort to combat the opiate epidemic where it often starts—the family medicine cabinet. 

“We need a way to dispose of unwanted medications safely at home,” Janine Underwood, executive director of Roanoke’s Bradley Free Clinic, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The kits provide just that, enabling people to get unwanted medications out of their homes without putting others at risk. The kits are large pouches that can dispose of up to 45 pills. A person disposing of medication can place unwanted pills in the pouch and fill it halfway with warm water. After 30 seconds, the pouch—which contains an active carbon that helps break down the medications—is sealed and gently shaken. Then it is safe to throw it out in the trash. 

The FDA cautions about the environmental impact of throwing pills in the trash, as well as the potential for intentional or unintentional overdose from pills put in the trash without precaution. The agency recommends bringing unwanted prescriptions to a drug take-back day, or mixing them with substances like cat litter or coffee grounds and disposing of them in a sealed container. The pouches simplify the process, hopefully encouraging more people to properly dispose of their pills. 

Prescription opiate painkillers have been blamed for the nation’s opiate epidemic. Often, addiction starts at home, with people becoming hooked on prescription opiates and then moving on to heroin, which is cheaper and more readily available. 

When Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced the program earlier this week, he talked about the dangers of prescription pills and their potential for addiction. “It’s a fast and frightening fall sometimes,” he said.

In Virginia, at least 213 people died from prescription drug overdoses in the first half of 2016, said Herring. The state projects more than 1,000 deaths from opiates (including heroin) will have occurred by the end of the year. 

“There are very few families or communities that haven’t been touched by this,” said Dr. Jody Hershey, director of the Virginia health department’s West Piedmont district and acting director of the New River Valley district.

Fifty-thousand kits will be distributed through the Virginia Department of Health, and an additional 30,000 will be available to pharmacies, hospitals, law enforcement and other non-profits. 

The program is free to the state, since the disposal pouches are being donated by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals (a company that also manufactures some opioid pills).

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.