Opioid abuse has ravaged the country in recent years.
In 2015, a staggering 19 million people are estimated to have misused prescription medicines.
Most obtained them from friends or relatives.
And many of those who misused the drugs were first-time users.
In response to that epidemic, Walgreens kicked off its Safe Medication Disposal Program last April in California to do something about it.
The chain’s goal was 500 disposal kiosks located inside the pharmacy sections of its stores.
With 62 kiosks in Florida, including two in Jacksonville, the chain is now up to 511 kiosks … exceeding its goal.
Walgreens has made a multi-million dollar commitment to the program. The drug store partners with Stericycle, which collects from each location quarterly and disposes of the discarded medicine safely, ensuring that discarded drugs, including hormones like estrogen, don’t seep into the groundwater supply.
On hand at a Walgreens with a disposal kiosk in Jacksonville, state and local legislators lauded the initiative.
Sen. Audrey Gibson noted that with elderly parents, she had concerns about disposal of medications, and lauded Walgreens for being on the “cutting edge” and for being a “good community steward.”
Sen. Aaron Bean said the idea was long overdue, expressing surprise it wasn’t thought of a long time ago.
Bean predicted that “down the road, you’ll see plenty of these.”
Rep. Charles McBurney referred to his experience as a former assistant state attorney, in which capacity he “saw the scourge of drug abuse,” which “tears at the fabric of the family.”
McBurney noted pill mill legislation a few years back made a difference, yet “didn’t resolve the drug abuse problem.”
McBurney also lauded Walgreens for making Naloxone — a drug that blocks the effects of opioids and can be lifesaving in the event of an overdose — available without a prescription. He noted availability reduced ER admissions for opiates by 70 percent, and reduced fatalities by 71 percent.
Rep. Paul Renner noted “we’ve all got that little basket under the sink that collects drugs,” and now Walgreens has provided a “place to bring unwanted drugs so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
Jacksonville City Councilman Greg Anderson, demonstrating how the chute works by putting in some medicinal discards from his own home apothecary, noted that this “proactive solution” is an “important step in reducing the likelihood of prescription drug misuse.”
Walgreens is partnering with the DEA in this program as a third-party vendor.
The program, currently in 19 states, could eventually be in 35 states.