UCS Healthcare and RALI Iowa offer FREE drug disposal bags for Iowans

June 23, 2020

This spring, many Iowans spent more time than usual at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media newsfeeds were filled with pictures of before and after lawn projects, cupcake baking challenges and triumphant results of spring cleaning and purging of closets and drawers to help pass the time. But one important area that may have been passed over in your COVID cleanup is your medicine drawer.

Whether cleaning out the medicine cabinet for you or someone for whom you provide care, disposing of unused, unwanted or expired medications could be the most important cleaning project of all. UCS Healthcare has partnered with Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) Iowa to provide a safe, contact-free option for safe drug disposal.

Order your free drug disposal bag here!

Why are we promoting safe drug disposal?

In the United States, four billion prescriptions are filled each year and one-third are not used, leaving 200 million pounds of unused medications, according to disposemymeds.org. A jumble of unused medications cluttering medicine cabinets and drawers in the home is dangerous for a variety of reasons. Older residents of the home may mistake one bottle for another and take the wrong medication. Visitors may be tempted to steal leftover prescription pain medications. Grandchildren may mistake capsules or pills for candy and become very ill or accidentally overdose.

“The best way to prevent opioid use disorder is to take your medications as prescribed and only for the amount of time needed,” advised Misty Angrick, Medical Services Director at UCS Healthcare. “Many times you may be prescribed more than you will need, especially with pain medication. When this happens please dispose of those medications in a safe, effective manner to prevent others from obtaining access.”

For all these reasons and more, disposing of expired or unused prescriptions reduces risk and eases the worries of misuse. It’s important to dispose of unwanted medications properly. The bad news is flushing the medications in the toilet or emptying pill bottles into the garbage isn’t safe for the water or the environment. But the good news is there are several easy and safe ways to dispose of old medications.

How to safely dispose of unwanted drugs: UCS Healthcare has partnered with RALI Iowa to help Iowans safely dispose of prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as expired vitamins and supplements.

1.     Order a free drug disposal bag from UCS Healthcare and we’ll mail it right to your door. Just add your unwanted medications, add water, seal the bag, shake it and throw it in your garbage. Call us at 515-280-3860, provide your address and ask for a drug disposal bag. You can also email us at ucsinformation@ucsdsm.org or visit our website to request a disposal bag.

2.     Visit a drug takeback center in your community. Search here or ask your pharmacy for the nearest location.

3.     If no other options are available, mix your medicines with kitty litter or old coffee grounds in an airtight container and dispose of it in your trash can.

Having prescriptions fall in the wrong hands – either by accident or purposefully – can lead to overdose or death. Angrick from UCS Healthcare added, “The last place you want your leftover opioids or other narcotics is in the hands of the wrong people, especially teens or young adults. Stolen medications become “party favors” or can be sold or exchanged for extra money or other substances. This is one way opioid use disorder can start with young adults. The safest way to dispose of your medications is in the free disposal bags we are offering.”

Since COVID-19 is still a real threat in Iowa, especially to vulnerable populations, requesting a free drug disposal bag may be the safest option. This simple step can keep unused prescriptions out of the hands of family members, friends and especially teenagers who live in or visit the home.

In addition to disposing of unwanted medications, there are other steps you can take to safely have medications in your home or the home of a person you provide care for:

·      Store medications in a locked container.

·      Request your/their healthcare providers give you smaller amounts of medication at a time such as weekly instead of monthly prescriptions.

·      If you keep opioids in the home please keep naloxone in the home in case of an accidental overdose. You can receive naloxone from your local pharmacy or by contacting Tele-Naloxone, a partnership between the Iowa Department of Public Health and University of Iowa Healthcare. https://www.naloxoneiowa.org/telenaloxone

UCS Healthcare is a nonprofit integrated healthcare provider with 14 locations in Iowa. We offer confidential and inclusive care for physical and mental health including substance use disorder, medication assisted treatment, primary medical care and psychiatric care.