Every day, nearly 100 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, including prescription pain medications. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.
Approximately 16.7 million people used prescription drugs for a non-medical purpose in the past year. Of the non-medical users of prescription drugs, nearly 70% obtained their pills from family and friends, including someone else’s medication being stolen from the home medicine cabinet. Appropriate disposal of unused medications is a critical component of curbing the opioid crisis.
In an effort to take unused medications out of the community and to provide a safe and convenient method of disposal, Northwestern Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago are coming together with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to host collection sites for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 28 from 10 am to 2 pm.
Community members may dispose of pills and patches at three Northwestern Medicine locations in the city and suburbs. No needles, sharps or liquids will be accepted. The locations are:
Lavin Family Pavilion at Northwestern Memorial Hospital – 259 E Erie Chicago, IL (in the Lavin driveway – cars must enter from Erie St.)
Northwestern Medicine Convenient Care St. Charles – 2900 Foxfield Rd., St. Charles, IL (on the east side of the parking lot by Kirk Road)
Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital– 1302 North Main St., Sandwich, IL
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse.
“Northwestern Medicine is proud to partner with Lurie Children’s Hospital and the DEA for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to provide our community with a safe and responsible way to conveniently dispose of their unused medications,” said Jonah Stulberg, MD, a general surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital who is leading Northwestern Medicine’s opioid reduction strategies. “For healthcare providers, opioids are an important tool for managing our patients’ pain, but if we prescribe these medications then we must also take responsibility for ensuring excess pills can be safely disposed of and taken out of the community.”
Unused medications thrown in the trash can be retrieved and abused, or illegally sold. If they are flushed, they can contaminate the water supply. Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and protects the environment.
“To address the opioid epidemic in Chicago, throughout Illinois, and across the United States requires a dedicated team approach over the long term,” said Matthew Davis, MD, MAPP, division head of academic general pediatrics and primary care at Lurie Children’s, who serves as co-chair of the hospital’s Opioid Task Force. “This Take Back Day event is a great way for clinicians, hospitals, and the public to do their part together, but it must be combined with sustained efforts on all other days of the year to use opioid medicines appropriately and dispose of unused doses promptly.”
National Prescription Take Back Day is offered at locations across the country. This is the 15th opportunity in 7 years that the DEA has provided to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs. The disposal events are free and no questions asked.
“Our Chicago area communities are being affected by a national opioid epidemic. This has been spurred, in part, by the rise of misuse of prescription opioids,” said DEA Chicago Division Special Agent in Charge Brian McKnight. “Partnerships between law enforcement and community entities are essential to combatting this rampant issue. Today the DEA stands with community partners such as Northwestern Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago to affect a true change by providing our communities with a secure and convenient way to dispose of medications.”
Last fall Americans turned in 456 tons (912,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at more than 5,300 sites operated by the DEA and almost 4,300 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 14 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in more than 9 million pounds—more than 4,500 tons—of pills.
At Northwestern Medicine, efforts are under way across the health system to reduce the number of opioids prescribed and to provide safe disposal options for patients, particularly after surgeries.
“Surgical providers write nearly 10 percent of all opioid prescriptions and approximately 80 percent of the pills of those 28.3 million prescriptions go unused, leaving a staggering number of pills available for diversion and leaving them vulnerable to abuse or misuse,” said Dr. Stulberg. “Starting in our Digestive Health Center with funding from the Digestive Health Foundation, we piloted a drug take back program where patients could dispose of their unused pain pills at their post surgery appointment. Following the success of this program, we are now working to offer drug disposal collection kiosks in all of our hospitals and to find other ways to reduce our reliance on opioid prescriptions and prevent diversion of these addictive pain medications.”
For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or to find Take Back Day event, go to www.DEATakeBack.com.