Fighting the opioid crisis: Statewide program distributing pouches that safely dissolve unwanted pills
A new statewide partnership began Tuesday to address the opioid crisis with plans to work with community anti-drug groups to emphasize prevention, treatment and recovery.
The first step for the new partnership, called the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative of Illinois, or RALI, is the distribution of 50,000 free drug disposal pouches that people can use to dispose of unwanted pills by simply adding water.
The organization also will offer grants to groups across Illinois that are working on prevention and treatment of substance abuse.
Two of the first groups set to receive some of the disposal pouches will be Link Together, which focuses on teen alcohol and drug use prevention in Wheeling Township, and Community -- The Anti-Drug, which has a similar mission in Bannockburn, Deerfield, Highland Park, Highwood and Riverwoods.
Jorie Ouimet, prevention specialist project lead at Link Together, said the drug disposal pouches will be helpful for people who call wondering when and where they can dispose of medications.
While there are pharmacies, police departments and health departments across the suburbs that offer drug disposal boxes, and special takeback events sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency twice a year, Ouimet said that doesn't always help when people need to get rid of something like a strong prescription painkiller right away.
"What we've seen from our local community members is a real interest in being able to find out where they can dispose of their prescription medications safely. We do have locations throughout the township; however, those locations are not always available," Ouimet said Thursday during a launch event for RALI in Deerfield.
"We really do need to raise awareness about those locations and then also offer other alternatives for our individual community members to be able to dispose properly of medications."
The drug disposal pouches the group will be handing out are already sold at drugstores and places such as Walmart for roughly $10. Called Deterra Drug Deactivation System, the pouches are approved by the FDA, are biodegradable and are proven safe for the environment, said Shweta Adyanthaya, vice president of marketing and communications for the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.
Adyanthaya gave a brief demonstration that involved tearing open the pouch, dropping in up to 45 pills at a time, filling the pouch halfway with water, sealing it and waiting 30 seconds. She said the carbon inside the pouch renders the pills inert. The bag then can be thrown in the garbage where it won't harm the environment.
Bill Gentes, project coordinator for the Lake County Opioid Initiative and the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force, said Deterra pouches are a step up from methods people previously used to dispose of medications in their homes. Strategies such as mixing in meds with coffee grounds or cat litter or flushing pills down the toilet can be harmful to the water supply and the environment, he said.
Removing medications is key because the majority of people who abuse prescriptions get them from a relative, said Gen. Arthur T. Dean, chairman and CEO of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. Safe disposal removes a potential source of drugs before they can be abused, he said.