Safely disposing of unused prescription opioids is crucial. Here’s how you can do it.

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September 26th, 2018



If you’ve had your wisdom teeth removed, chances are good that you’ve been prescribed opioids. Opioids can be effective in relieving acute pain after you’ve had surgery. But they are also powerful, and can be powerfully addictive.

Why disposal is crucial

Keeping your prescription opioids in a safe place and disposing of them as soon as you no longer need them for pain relief is a crucial piece of what you can do to help prevent opioid abuse, particularly if you have teenagers in your life. More than one-half of opioid medications prescribed after dental surgery go unused,† and instead of disposing of them, a majority of families kept them “just in case.”†† These medications may be misused later. In fact, two-thirds of teenagers who abused pain relievers obtained them from friends, family or an acquaintance.

How to dispose of leftover medications

Minnesota collection sites

Minnesota hosts a number of collection sites where you can drop off your unused pills and prescriptions. This searchable map makes it easy for you to find a collection site near you. Every collection site has a guideline of what it will accept, so be sure to contact them ahead of your drop-off.

Check your local police station

Many local law enforcement agencies host a permanent prescription drop box. Finding out if your police station offers this service is as easy as giving them a quick call.

Take-back events

Temporary collection sites are set up on a periodic basis throughout the country. Check the DEA website for the next event near you.

If all else fails, flush

Flushing pills is, by and large, something you should not do because it can contaminate our lakes and streams, and even end up in our drinking water. But because of their potential for harm caused by misuse, the FDA has instructed that a small number of medications, which includes Hydrocodone, be flushed down the toilet if no other options for disposal are available. See the FDA’s list here.

†Maughan BC, Hersh EV, Shofer FS, Wanner KJ, Archer E, Carrasco LR, Rhodes KV. Unused opioid analgesics and drug disposal following outpatient dental surgery: A randomized controlled trial. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016 Nov 1;168:328-334. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.08.016. Epub 2016 Sep 20. PubMed PMID: 27663358.s.

††Neill, LA. et al. “I’m Keeping Them Just in Case: Patients Rationale for Retaining Unused Opiod Pills”. Annals of Emergency Medicine, Volume 70, Issue 4, S82 - S83.