Combatting opioid abuse is a battle that must be fought on a number of fronts, including the household medicine cabinet. Too many patients are hanging on to unused pills instead of disposing of them once they’re no longer needed.

That increases the chance that the opioids will be abused, either by the patient or another party.

A majority of opioids prescribed after surgery go unused, according to researchers at John Hopkins University. Yet 90 percent of patients fail to dispose of the leftover pills, instead choosing to stash them away, most often in unlocked drawers or cabinets.

The review found that between 67 percent and 92 percent of those who were prescribed the potent painkillers to ease post-surgery discomfort did not use the entire bottle.

The research should prod physicians to be more prudent in the amount of opioids they prescribe. Writing scripts for fewer pills would cut down on the number of opioids that are unaccounted for.

But patients should also behave more responsibly.

Unused prescription medicines should be properly disposed of to prevent their abuse.

Youthful opioid users often find their supply in their parents’ medicine cabinets. And prescription drugs are one of the primary targets of home burglars.

That’s why a group of local health organizations are urging Metro Detroiters to participate in this year’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, staged by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Delta Dental of Michigan, the Detroit Health Department, Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, the Greater Detroit Area Health Council and Youth Connection are announcing plans Thursday to reduce the number of opioids on the streets and to empower patients to manage pain without them.

The first step is rounding up left-over prescription drugs. The mental health authority will have 28 red boxes in police stations and community centers throughout the county Saturday to collect unused pills. Additional dropoff sites can be found by ZIP code at

Delta Dental is providing 600 special drug disposal bags at the various sites throughout Detroit as well.

It’s important to dispose of the drugs properly. They shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet, as they can taint the water supply, or simply tossed into the garbage can. A good alternative is to crush them and mix with soil or kitty litter, place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag and put it in the trash.

Limiting access to opioids is a key step to combatting their abuse. Patients can do their part by safely disposing of any leftover pills after their pain treatment concludes.

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