In an effort to combat the rising rates of death due to opiate overdose, 500 Walgreens locations across the country are providing a lifesaving service. “Drug take-back kiosks,” or locations where you can safely dispose of unwanted or unused prescription medication, are now available in 16 locations in New Jersey. This means that families with extra medications of any kind – over-the-counter medications, nonaddictive prescription medications, and addictive prescription medications – can take them to one of these Walgreens locations for safe disposal, no questions asked.
Governor Chris Christie was at a store in New Jersey to announce the new kiosks. He said: “Many times, the disease of addiction begins at home in a person’s medicine cabinet. In New Jersey I have made it a priority to target this source by implementing, expanding and promoting programs such as Project Medicine Drop and the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Misuse of prescription drugs is a major pathway to addiction, and this safe disposal program will go a long way to eliminating adults’ and children’s accessibility to these dangerous unused drugs.”
Many experts believe that the epidemic of painkiller abuse was triggered in some cases and perpetuated in others when people had to go no further than the medicine cabinet to find drugs to abuse. Taking opiate painkillers to treat a headache in lieu of aspirin or to destress can very easily become an addictive habit, especially if headaches and stress are common issues. Combine the drugs with alcohol or other prescription substances, and the risk of addiction and overdose increases. The risk remains as long as the medications are easily accessible and unmonitored.
The best way to handle the problem is to get rid of these medications, but of course, one cannot just throw them in the trash as doing so would contaminate landfills and groundwater. Many people end up leaving them in the medicine cabinet to deal with another day, but with the implementation of easy access, drop-off kiosks at Walgreens, this may shift in 2017.
The addition of drug take-back kiosks is one of many changes that can lead to a decrease in opiate drug abuse, addiction, and overdose. A positive change, it is a single piece in a huge puzzle that requires positive action from all sides.
Everyone – the medical community, the substance abuse treatment community, courts and law enforcement, governing officials, communities, families, and individuals – can work together with the twin goals of preventing new cases of addiction and overdose, and helping those who are living with addiction to connect with treatment that can be life-changing.
The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that almost 19 million Americans self-reported misuse of prescription drugs in the past year. Every single abuse of opiate painkillers can end in overdose, and repeated use and abuse can ultimately lead to an addiction. When addiction occurs or continued use of prescription painkillers cannot be curbed despite the negative consequences, treatment is the best option: medical care for a medical substance use disorder.
If opiate abuse or addiction is a problem for you or someone you love, early treatment that is comprehensive in nature and personalized to the needs of the individual is recommended.
Drug drop-off kiosks will be in place by the end of the month and open to the public during the specific store’s hours, and many are open 24 hours.