Prescription drug-related overdoses in Wyoming were five times higher in 2015 than in 2004, according to the Department of Health. That is one of the reasons that public health workers around the state are working to collect or deactivate medications.
Another reason is that drugs can contaminate the environment if they are flushed down the toilet or thrown away.
Each county in the state has at least one disposal box where people can get rid of excess pills, and some places will accept sealed medicines as donations. Wyoming’s Prevention Management Organization has set up a new text line that will direct people to the nearest drop-off site.
Prevention specialists like Matt Stech of Teton County are also giving out “drug-deactivation” kits to keep medications from circulating among people who are at risk of overdose or addiction. The pouches made from activated carbon neutralize drugs so that they are safe to dispose of without polluting waterways.
“They can take it home and put 45 carbon based prescription drug pills in here – you can also put liquids or patches in it – add water – it’s like a science experiment,” Stech said. “It’s like this kind of gray sludge that fizzes. And then you seal the package and this plastic is actually biodegradable.”
Health advocates across the United States have begun paying more attention to the pathways of opioid painkillers as abuse of such substances has intensified. Stech said that even in communities that are not experiencing an opioid crisis, it is important to be proactive.
“It’s pretty frightening, and a lot of people are suffering because of this issue,” Stech said. “But these kits allow the unused medications to be disposed of, both safe for people and safe for the environment.”
According to Prevention Management Oorganization CEO Keith Hotle, the deactivation kits are available in 14 different counties.