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Drug 'take back' program nets 261 pounds at Memorial Hospital, highlights ways to dispose of medication at home

Opioid addiction is a serious problem that claims many lives across the United States every day. Disposing of old medications can help prevent addiction.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As the battle against opioid misuse continues, drug "take back" programs are gaining increasing popularity across the country.

On Saturday, cars lined up at Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville to drop off bags of old unused prescriptions. The hospital had an original goal of collecting 50 pounds of unused drugs, but they surpassed that goal with a total weight of 261 pounds.

One of those people dropping off pill bottles was Margaret Camarata, a retired teacher.

"The more things we get out of the hands of people that misuse them, the better we are," Camarata said.

The opioid crisis has claimed many lives over recent years, and the hope is that these programs take prescription medications out of the community and prevent misuse.

"There's between 6 million and 11 million individuals who abuse drugs, opioids," said Adrianne Schmidt, the Director of Pharmacy at Memorial Hospital. "It's something that we have to address every single day. We have people coming into our ERs that are coming in with overdoses because they've either obtained these medications out on the streets or they've obtained them at their own homes."

One of the concerns is that people will easily take unused opioids from friends or family.

Statistics from 2015 show that 40.5 percent of people who misused prescription pain relievers received them from a friend or relative for free. Just under 10 percent bought them from a friend or relative, and just under four percent stole from a friend or relative.

"It's everyone's responsibility," Schmidt said. "We need first as consumers to understand what we're taking and what the drug is, how long we should take it, what to report in case we're having.. to know whether it's working or vice versa if it's not working we need to know how to report that."

But if you can not find a local drug take back program, what else can you do to dispose of old medication at home?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends following these steps:

  1. Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. This makes the medicine less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.
  2. Put the mixture in something you can close (a re-sealable zipper storage bag, empty can, or other container) to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
  3. Throw the container in the garbage.
  4. Scratch out all your personal information on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity and privacy. Throw the packaging away.

The FDA also has a flush list of medications that should be immediately flushed as they may be extremely harmful or fatal.