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It’s Important to Safely Dispose of Opioids

Keeping unused opioids in the home creates a serious health risk.

Help keep your family and community safe, starting in your home—get rid of any unused or expired prescription opioids that may be hiding in cabinets, drawers, or anywhere else you store medicine. Remove opioids as soon as possible to reduce the chance that they are taken by accident or on purpose.

WHAT IS AN OPIOID?

Prescription opioids are powerful, pain-reducing medicines that include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and others. Health care providers prescribe opioids after surgeries and for injuries; however, these medicines can have serious risks if they are accidentally or intentionally misused.

 

WHY IS OPIOID DISPOSAL IMPORTANT FOR ME AND MY FAMILY?

Children or pets can accidentally take unused opioids or visitors might search for them in your drawers and medicine cabinets. Children getting into medicine on their own is a major source of poisoning emergencies in the United States. Additionally, many people who misused prescription pain-reducing medicines said that they got their most recent pain reliever from a friend or relative.1 Proper disposal of unused prescription opioids can save lives.2

HOW DO I SAFELY DISPOSE OF OPIOIDS?

Ask yourself these questions to determine how to dispose of opioids:

  1. Is a medicine take-back option readily available? If so, this is the preferred option.
  2. If not, is the medicine on the FDA “flush list”? Medicines on the flush list are those with high potential for misuse and those that can result in death from just one dose, if inappropriately taken. If it is on the “flush list,” flush it down the toilet.
  3. Otherwise, throw it away in the household trash mixed with an unappealing substance, such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds.

Remember: Don’t share your opioid prescription with others. Store opioids out of sight and out of reach of children, teens, and visitors in your home. Dispose of unused opioids safely when there is no longer a medical need for them.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ON SAFE OPIOID DISPOSAL?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched the Remove the Risk campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the serious dangers of keeping unused prescription opioids and to provide information about safe disposal of medicines.

    • Download free “Remove the Risk” educational resources, including videos, fact sheets, and information. Help determine your best disposal option with information from the FDA in English and Spanish.
    • Use #RemoveOpioidRisk to follow updates from the campaign and to join the conversation on social media.
Content courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Content current as of December 2020
References

  1. Gummin DD, Mowry JB, Spyker DA, Brooks DE, Fraser MO, Banner W. 2016 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 34th Annual Report. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2017 Dec;55(10):1072-1252.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP20-07-01-001, NSDUH Series H-55). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data

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