Safety For You: Disposing of expired prescription drugs


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– Phil Pavona says he knows all too well how leftover medications can hurt families.

“We all tend to have this thing where we get prescribed something and stick it in the medicine cabinet,” he says, “and whatever’s left sits there for years and years and years.”

His son Eric died from an overdose in 2011. At one point, a leftover prescription for 30 Norco pills sat unused in the family’s medicine cabinet after one of Phil’s daughters had her wisdom teeth pulled.

“When Colleen had that medication filled, she took one, didn’t like how it made her feel and it sat in our medicine cabinet,” she says. “And ultimately when we were dealing with our own son’s struggle with addiction, I remember going back to that medicine cabinet and the medicine was no longer there.”

Pavona says he doesn’t know if Eric took the pills or gave them to someone else, but he’s encouraging other parents to go through their homes, find any expired medications and get rid of them safely.

More than 47,000 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than a third of those deaths were related to prescription drugs.

The Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network says they’ve collected nearly 10,000 pounds of pills, and more than 100,000 opioid pills, since 2017 through drug drop-offs. While some of those pills may sit in cabinets, forgotten for months or even years, they could end up in the wrong hands.

“When we have medications that are unwanted or expired and we don’t do anything about them, we run the risk of potentially somebody coming in and taking them,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail says. “And when they’re unwanted or expired, and so they’re there, you won’t even notice.”

“When you talk to these people, most were given those medications either through a friend or through a medicine cabinet,” Pavona says, “whether it was their own parents, or their grandparents or friends who were able to abscond through them in the medicine cabinet.”

Pavona can’t bring his son back, but he hopes other parents will look for the potential risks in their homes and take them out before it’s too late.

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