What To Do With Those Unwanted Pills

Sep 1, 2017

Getting opioids can be very easy.  Getting rid of them can be very hard. There’s a lot at stake here.  Failure to do dispose of opioids can impacts lives, families, careers­–even the environment.

“These things shouldn’t be treated any differently than a loaded gun that’s sitting around the house,” said Dr. William Jacobs. 

He was a respected anesthesiologist with a successful practice and an idyllic family life but then he succumbed to temptation.

“The access for me was very simple. I just checked out more than I needed to give to the patients and I kept the rest for me,” said Jacobs.

A new piece of legislation, or more specifically a new provision in Georgia House Bill 249, which went into effect on July 1, deals directly with “denying access” and “drug disposal.”

Here’s what it says:

A prescriber who issues a prescription for an opioid shall provide the patient receiving the prescription with information on the addictive risks of using opioids and information on options available for safely disposing of any unused opioids where such options exist.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs is the Chairman of The Department of Family Medicine at The Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. He and his colleagues are charged with preparing the next generation of front line medical care providers.

Hobbs said, “What has changed is trying to focus our residents to make sure that, as they give these agents to any person, that they are documenting the conversations with their patients that talk about the good impact of these agents and also the addictive potential that can be associated with them if they are inappropriately used. And, at the same time, making sure that those who do not need to have access to these agents are denied that.”

Denying access is proving to be tough, in part because safe disposal is tough too. We contacted the Georgia Attorney General’s office, who provided us with a list of locations in every county in the state where unwanted opioids can be placed in drop boxes for disposal.

Unfortunately, everybody doesn’t know about those drop boxes.

To demonstrate the thesis, a pharmacy in the Columbus area was contacted as well as a public health office in a South Georgia county. Neither location knew of any drop boxes in their area.

Dr. Hobbs did provide us with some options for those who can’t get to a drop box.

“There’s also special envelopes that they must purchase from pharmacies. And, ah, placing the medications in these envelopes and mailing them in is the second way in which these drugs can be disposed of,” Hobbs said.

And, your doctor’s office can help out as well.

“You can actually return the drugs back to your physicians, and then they will have processes within their offices to get them disposed of appropriately,” said Hobbs.

He also mentioned this method, “Put them into used cat litter, or used coffee grounds.  Then put those items into a Ziploc plastic bag and dispose of it in your garbage.”

Flushing opioids down a commode is absolutely not recommended.

He said, “You have to be able to determine whether or not the drug about to be disposed of is safe to be disposed of by flushing.  The opioids are not one of those.”

So, whether you use a drop box, a mail-in envelope, turn them in to a doctor’s office, or find some used kitty litter, the important thing is to deny access to and dispose safely of unwanted opioids. 

Below is a resource list with drop box locations in every Georgia county.