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Health Department Encourages Safe Removal of Unused Opioids

By Diane Lee, Public Information Officer, Garrett County Health Department

More than 100 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, and millions are addicted to these prescription pain medications. One way to help keep your family and community safe is to start in your home and get rid of any unused or expired pain medication that may be hiding in cabinets, drawers, or anywhere else you store medicine. Remove these medicines as soon as possible to reduce the chance that your child may accidentally take medicine you do not need.

The Garrett County Health Department is promoting the Remove the Risk campaign, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) education and outreach campaign to raise awareness about the serious risks of keeping unused prescriptions in the home and to provide information about safe disposal of these drugs.

“If every household in Garrett County removed prescription pain medications once they’re no longer medically needed for their prescribed use, it would have a major impact on reducing the grip they have on our communities,” said Linda Costello, Prevention Specialist at the Health Department. “The easiest way to dispose of unneeded medication is at one of the three medication disposal boxes located around the county, or to pick up free Deterra disposal packets at the Health Department.”

Unused opioids—such as hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone—are dangerous to have in your home when they are no longer needed. Children or pets can accidentally take unused medications or visitors might search for them in your drawers and medicine cabinets. Remove the risk of your unused prescriptions and help address the devastating opioid crisis affecting so many American families. Proper disposal of unused prescriptions can save lives. Garrett County’s three drug disposal boxes are located at the Garrett County Sheriff’s Office, Oakland City Hall, and the Maryland State Police Barracks in McHenry. Access to some boxes may be limited due to the pandemic.

“It is crucial for adults to understand the important role they play in removing and properly disposing of unused prescriptions from their homes,” said Costello. “Many people who misuse pain medication report getting them from a friend or family member.”

According to the 2019 Maryland Public Opinion Survey (MPOS), 82% of Garrett Countians think it is easy to get pain medication from a friend or family member in order to get high.  On MPOS, 77% of respondents reported that pain medications are stored in a medicine or kitchen cabinet, in a drawer, or on a shelf. In these locations, 75% of them are never locked up.

Opioids are powerful, pain-reducing medicines that can help patients successfully manage pain when prescribed for the right condition and when used properly. When misused or abused, however, these drugs can cause serious harm, including addiction, overdose and death.

Because teens and adults are gaining access to these medications through medicine cabinets of parents, grandparents, other relatives, and friends, education is key to promoting proper storage, monitoring, and disposing of prescription drugs.

To get the message out, the health department will be using radio ads and social media messages on their websites and Facebook pages. Promotion of the campaign is made possible through funds from a grant from the Maryland Department of Health. For more information about the Remove the Risk campaign or any of their prevention programs, call the Health Education and Outreach at the Garrett County Health Department at 301-334-7730 or 301-895-3111.