Michigan-OPEN

Our opioid take-back events

Community opioid and medication take-back events provide a safe process for disposing of unused medications while protecting our communities, children and environment. Our most recent drive in May 2017 was held in Ann Arbor, Saginaw, Traverse City, Escanaba, Jackson and Pontiac. The collective effort of the May drive resulted in almost 600 families safely removing a total of 421 pounds of medication, including approximately 15,600 opioids from their homes, while also increasing awareness in the community about safe medication disposal.

Why host a take-back event?

The United States is currently experiencing an epidemic of prescription drug misuse and abuse. 12.5 million people age 12 and older misused opioids (pain medications) in the past year. Since 1999, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled. Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid-related overdose – that is more than the number of people killed in car accidents or by guns.

Opioids relieve pain by affecting how your brain and central nervous system process painful stimuli and are often prescribed during episodes of acute pain, such as after surgery, trauma, or dental procedure. However, a recent study found that approximately 70% of the opioids prescribed for surgery go unused, making them vulnerable to diversion and misuse.

To turn the tide on the opioid epidemic, we need to prevent opioid abuse before it starts. Increasing safe and convenient opportunities for community members to dispose of their unused and leftover medications is essential. A recent study found most of the teens reporting use of prescription medications obtained them from friends or family members, with one-fifth to one-quarter reporting taking them without permission. Leftover opioids also pose a poison risk to young children. Every 10 minutes a child visits the emergency room for medication poisoning.

What is required to host a take-back event?

A take-back event requires a law enforcement partner, a location, volunteers, and a collection receptacle for the pills. Opioids are controlled substances regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. An armed law enforcement officer must be present at all times and maintain custody of the collected medications. The Michigan OPEN guide can assist you with planning and management of your take-back event.

What are existing methods for disposing of opioids?

Approved opioid collectors, primarily pharmacies and law enforcement agencies, and special take-back events are the safest and most environmentally-friendly means of disposing unneeded medications. If these options are not available, recommendations are to remove pills from their container and throw them away in household trash with an unpalatable substance or flush them down the toilet. Unfortunately, flushing medications leads to pharmaceuticals being discharged into our surface and ground water. Managing unused, unwanted and expired medications is a safety as well as an environmental concern. Safety and accidental poisoning concerns for smaller children and family pets are on the rise, however, headlines across the nation are focusing on two distinct areas of concern: the contamination of drinking water supplies with pharmaceuticals, and the rise of teen abuse of prescription medications.

For more information, please see our page on Safe Drug Disposal.

Interested in hosting a take-back event with Michigan OPEN?

Contact MichiganOPEN@umich.edu.

Take Back Event Updates