ST. LOUIS: Unused prescriptions have proved to be a significant source of drugs supplying the nation’s opioid epidemic, but the National Zip-Out Unused Opioids Foundation seeks to change that. Its goal is to educate the public on an easy method to responsibly dispose of unused pain medications. The National Zip-Out Unused Opioids Foundation is the brainchild of Susan E, Mackinnon, MD, FACS, who works with the division of plastic reconstructive surgery, Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
The opioid crisis has been well documented. The Centers for Disease Control has reported that 64,070 drug overdose deaths in 2016 were attributed to opioid abuse, a 21% increase over 2015. A 2012 study showed that 86% of intravenous heroin users had previously misused opioid pain relievers. Dr. Susan Mackinnon explains: “people who have surgery often get pain prescriptions for more pills than they actually need and often hoard the medications in their home medicine cabinets instead of properly disposing them.” Research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration found that nearly 70% of people surveyed obtained their most recently used pain reliever or sedative divergently from a friend or family member.
“Patients prescribed with pain medications need to be responsible with their unused medications so they don’t get in the wrong hands because early exposure to opioid pain medications is a significant risk for future use of illegal substances,” said Dr. Susan Mackinnon. “Our big goal is to empower everyone to potentially save a life of a young person by increasing awareness of the dire need to clean these dangerous drugs out of medicine cabinets.”
Recently, the National Zip-Out Unused Opioids Foundation published a new educational brochure that shows how to safely dispose unused pain pills in compliance with the Federal Food and Drug Administration guidelines and federal law. The brochure instructs the public to place their unused opioid pills in a plastic food storage bag, add liquid dish detergent to dissolve the pills, and then through away the plastic bag with the dish detergent mixed with dissolved pills inside.
“We believe this is a safe, inexpensive and convenient way to responsibly dispose of these medications,” added Dr. Mackinnon. The National Zip-Out Unused Opioids Foundation is working to get its message in doctor’s offices, pharmacies and schools throughout the United States. “Increasing awareness and empowering the public through a simple disposal method is undoubtedly one very important way we can all help combat the opioid crisis.”