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Safe Storage and Disposal of Opioids

Learn more about how to promote safe storage and disposal of opioids and all medications.
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The AMA Opioid Task Force strongly supports the education and awareness of physicians, patients, policymakers, and other key stakeholders regarding the risks of prescription opioids and other medications if they are not taken as prescribed—as well as steps needed to ensure safe storage and disposal of expired, unwanted or unused medications. The Task Force urges all physicians and other health care professionals to take three steps that can help.

Talk to Patients

Physicians and other health care professionals need to talk to their patients and educate them about safe use of prescription opioids—more than 70% of people using opioid analgesics for nonmedical reasons get them from family or friends. Opioid analgesics should only be taken as directed since misuse or diversion of these products can be illegal, extremely harmful and even deadly.

Remind Patients

Remind patients that medications should be stored out reach of children, and in a safe place—preferably locked—to prevent other family members and visitors from taking them. The CDC recommends that prescribers “discuss risks to household members and other individuals if opioids are intentionally or unintentionally shared with others for whom they are not prescribed, including the possibility that others might experience overdose at the same or at lower dosage than prescribed for the patient.”

Urge Patients to Dispose of Unused Medications

Talk to your patients about the most appropriate way to dispose of expired, unwanted and unused medications.  The preferred option is that unwanted or unused pills, liquids or other medications should be disposed of in a local “take back” or mail back program or medication drop box at a police station, DEA-authorized collection site or pharmacy, if the pharmacy has a secure drop-box program.

Find a local authorized drug disposal location or view additional take back and disposal options through the following resources:

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