Medicine Cabinet: Safely disposing of opioids - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Medicine Cabinet: Safely disposing of opioids

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WARREN, Ohio -

As part of our solution-oriented reporting on the opioid epidemic, a story on your medicine cabinet and why it needs to be emptied.

We've talked about drug take back programs for years and why it's important to get rid of your expired and unused medications, but is it making a difference? 

On average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, and at least 14 people die each day in Ohio from an opiate overdose.  

Did you know that leftover prescription pain killers kept in your medicine cabinet are fueling this deadly epidemic that's now been declared a nationwide public health crisis?

Lauren Thorp, Director of Recovery and Youth Programs for the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said, "About 1,700 kids a day throughout the country abuse a prescription medication, everyday, just to try it."

Another startling statistic, according to authorities, is that about 60 percent of Americans have an unused opiate in their house, and we need to change the culture of stockpiling medications because they said it's literally killing us.

"So we've kind of become that culture of, you know, we didn't finish all that medication, all those pain pills, but we don't want to waste, it so we tend to put it in the cupboard and hold on to it, just in case," Thorp said.

That's why properly disposing of unused drugs is so important and cleaning out that medicine cabinet so that prescription pain relievers don't end up in the wrong hands.

However, Mahoning County's Sanitary Engineer Pat Ginnetti warns against just flushing the drugs down the toilet.

"There's no telling the mixing of different types of medications, what kind of cocktail that could create, and what kind of damage that could cause," said Ginnetti. 

The Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board advises taking your unused medication to one of more than 15 "drop box locations" in the county.

They can be found at most local police departments.  

The board has also started a campaign, thanks to a $45,000 grant, for drug disposal and storage, courtesy of The Mercy Health Foundation, the Trumbull Memorial Health Foundation and the Trumbull County Health and Recovery Board.

That campaign includes already distributing 300 drug deactivation kits to senior citizens in Trumbull County.  

All you have to do is open the packet, place up to 90 pills or drug patches inside, fill it up half-way with warm water, wait 30 seconds, shake the package, reseal it and throw it in the trash.

"It's this carbon charcoal mix that has some unique formulation that was created by this pharmaceutical company. It breaks down those medications and pretty much renders them useless," said Thorp.

Another easy was to dispose of expired and unused medication is to put the pills in a zip lock bag, fill it with kitty litter, saw dust or coffee grounds, reseal it and throw it away.

"I mean, anyone that is going to go into the garbage and look for pills, they're not very likely to open those up and start rooting through pills.  It makes the drugs very undesirable and helps kind of break down the pills," said Thorp.

In 2017, a DEA field office in Detroit collected more than 67,000 pounds of unused and expired medications.

This is a first step in the right direction as the DEA said more people than ever clean out their medicine cabinets in an effort to stop a deadly epidemic in its tracks.

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