• Innovation in Action

Oct 12, 2020

Coalition Targets Unused Narcotics and Abusable Medications with Distribution of Medication Disposal Pouches

Pouch Picture-2

Nearly 9.9 million Americans misuse prescription pain relievers, and over half of these drugs are either given, bought, or taken from a friend or relative, according to a 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. October 24 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which offers a safe, convenient, and responsible way to dispose of unused prescription drugs and educates the public about potential medication abuse.

Click here to find a National Take Back Initiative Collection Site.

National Take Back Day is among the programs promoted by the Substance Abuse Free Environment (SAFE) Opioid Coalition in Chesterfield County (Virginia). Another SAFE program, “Don’t Be An Accidental Drug Dealer, launched in 2010, urges the proper disposal of unwanted or expired medications using free, one-time use medication disposal pouches.

In early 2020, SAFE planned to distribute the pouches during various community meetings but was forced to develop a Plan B with the arrival of COVID-19. Regina Whitsett, executive director of SAFE, said the grant providing funding for the pouches was ending, so they quickly leveraged local connections to disseminate them despite the cancellation of in-person meetings as a result of the pandemic.

The Health Quality Innovation Network coordinated with SAFE and the Virginia Pharmacists Association to supply local pharmacies with pouches to distribute to caregivers and/or patients who are prescribed pain relievers, whether they are picked up at the store or delivered to a patient’s home. Each pouch includes directions for the safe disposal of unwanted or expired drugs. In total, more than 1,300 of the pouches were distributed to patients in the county.

“It turned into a very successful campaign,” said Whitsett. “One of the local pharmacies focusing on dispensing the pouches to patients with narcotic prescriptions called us asking for more.”