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Medical Minute: Importance of Safe Opioids Disposal
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 04/22/2019

Cleaning out your medicine cabinet is about more than having a tidy bathroom. In an age of opioid addiction, it also can prevent leftover medications from getting into the wrong hands.

Dr. Alexis Reedy-Cooper, a family medicine physician at Penn State Health, said opioid addiction continues to increase around the country. Pennsylvania ranks among the top five states affected by the issue.

Doctors typically prescribe opioids to patients who break a bone or who are recovering from surgery. The dosage is a delicate balance between keeping the patient comfortable and preventing addiction.

"We try to give patients just enough so that there won't be a lot of leftovers, but we can't always guess how much someone is going to need," Reedy-Cooper said. "We want patients to use the lowest dose necessary and use it for the least amount of time."

Patients can become dependent on the euphoric state that these medications can produce. It is difficult for a person to wean themselves off of these types of medications when they have been on them for an extended period of time.

Penn State Health's biannual Drug Take Back Day offers people the chance to get rid of their opioids safely. The event will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 27 at three locations:

- Academic Support Building, at 90 Hope Drive on the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center campus.

-Penn State Health Medical Group -- Lime Spring, at 2221 Noll Drive in Lancaster.

-Penn State Health Medical Group -- Palmyra, at 941 Park Drive in Palmyra.

The event is designed to give the local community a convenient and easy way to dispose of any unused or expired medications, as well as needles and syringes.

Attendees will receive information about proper disposal of medication and medical supplies, as well as Mr. Yuk stickers, pill boxes and other items.

The event is rewarding because most of the people who attend are so thankful to have a safe place to dispose of the items, according to Kimie Cimarelli, manager of inpatient pharmacy services at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Besides Drug Take Back Day, Cimarelli said local residents also can take unused medications to their local police department for proper disposal.

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