Breaking News
More () »

Keep unused meds from falling into the wrong hands.

It’s time to clean out your medicine cabinet. Here’s how to safely get rid of unused or expired prescription drugs.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

MINNEAPOLIS — The arrival of Spring launches many people into cleaning mode. There is important information to know when it comes to cleaning out medicine cabinets.

Medications play an important role in healthcare. Prescriptions, when used properly, can alleviate pain and help a body heal. However, those same meds can also lead to addiction, overdoses, and unintentional deaths if they’re not managed properly. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says in 2021, 1,354 Minnesotans died from drug overdoses. That’s nearly four people each day

Opioid risks

Opioids are a class of medications prescribed to alleviate pain. Opioids may be more commonly called oxycodone (OxyContin® Percodan®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, fentanyl (Duragesic®), morphine, and hydromorphone (Dilaudid®) The medications are highly effective at managing severe and chronic pain.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health’s Opioid Dashboard the number of opioid overdose deaths in Minnesota more than doubled between 2019 and 2021.

Opioids come with risks for addiction, overdoses, and death. MDH data shows overdose-related emergency room cases totaled 5,964 in 2021. The highest percentage of nonfatal ER overdose cases are in people 25-34 years old. Two-thirds of those cases are men.

The MDH says the most common way people access opioids is with a medical prescription. But not all those meds get used properly. Minnesota’s Attorney General says prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in Minnesota and the United States.  The annual Minnesota Student Survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Education shows inappropriate use of pain medications increased among 8th and 9th graders while holding steady for 11th graders.

Take action! Find a collection site to safely dispose of unused/expired medications

There are many options for keeping unused meds from falling into the wrong hands.

Each year the National Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sponsors Drug Take Back Days in April and October. The DEA sets up collection sites in every state. The next event is April 22.  Disposal locations can be found by entering your zip code into their search site

The Minnesota Attorney General’s office has an interactive map for finding locations to safely dispose of unused or expired medications. It has locations in all corners of the state.

Most retail pharmacy chains also offer collections boxes at their stores for their customers to use. The US Department of Justice has a searchable database on them. Check with your local pharmacists to learn more.

If you or someone you know takes too large of a dose or accidentally takes the wrong medication, call the MN Poison Control System immediately at 800-222-1222. Help is available 24/7. 

Resources used in this article

Minnesota Drug Overdose data for 2021 – Minnesota Department of Health

Minnesota Drug Overdose Dashboard – Minnesota Department of Health

Dose of Reality – Minnesota Attorney General’s Office

Drug Take Back Day – U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Pharmacy Drug Collection sites – U.S. Department of Justice

Know Your Numbers

This information is provided by Health Fair 11 as part of its Know Your Numbers Campaign.  Health Fair 11 is a non-profit organization that operates with financial support from sponsorships and grants.  KARE 11 TV is its media partner.

Health Fair 11 is currently looking for new sponsors. Contact us at healthfair@kare11.com for details. Learn more about our past projects at www.HealthFair11.org.

Before You Leave, Check This Out