Walmart is helping customers get rid of leftover opioids by giving them packets that turn the addictive painkillers into a useless gel.

The retail giant announced Wednesday that it will provide the packets free with opioid prescriptions filled at its 4,700 U.S. pharmacies.

The small packets, made by DisposeRX, contain a powder that is poured into prescription bottles. When mixed with warm water, the powder turns the pills into a biodegradable gel that can be thrown in the trash.

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It works on other prescription drugs and for pills, tablets, capsules, liquids or patches, according to DisposeRx.

Around 4 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The agency says these drugs are often obtained from friends and family who leave them in home medicine cabinets.

Research has shown that surgery patients often end up with leftover opioid painkillers and store them improperly at home. Authorities say opioid painkillers should be kept in their original packaging and locked inside a cabinet out of the reach of children.

Walmart says its pharmacy customers can request a free packet at any time. The company also will offer patients with a chronic opioid prescription a packet every six months.

Painkiller maker Mallinckrodt PLC has a similar program. It said last fall that it has donated about 1.5 million drug disposal pouches across the country and will increase that total to 2 million early this year.

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Some drugstore chains like CVS and Walgreens also collect unused medications at many of their stores. People can also take leftovers to hospital pharmacies or police stations.

Unused prescriptions also can be thrown in the trash. But the Food and Drug Administration recommends mixing them first with something unpalatable like kitty litter or used coffee grounds and sealing the mixture in a plastic bag.

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  • I started out as the Director of the Federal Drug Interdiction Task Force way back when
    As my roll in law enforcement, I saw first hand that drug addiction like any other addiction was based initially on a person who was looking for some sort of altered sensation. be it getting snockered on beer or a high from Cocaine or mellow with Heroin the point was common that everyone who starts in the process was always looking to “get something they refused to earn”
    Then the REAL world takes over. MANY people are genetically altered to be unable to metabolize certain chemicals as others do. AA has proclaimed this for decades they know it but the powers to be refuse to accept it. Certain people are just genetically different. Blaming the bartender for an alcoholic’s addiction has LONG ago been agreed as useless. The Medical community is ONLY the bartender we have NO idea who is going to metabolize what and who will need more or less to contain their pain
    The issue is about chronic pain people although they ARE the real issue. Asking the medical community to alter its prescribing habits to prescribing opioids for post-procedural pain is currently in vogue. The Walmart freebie is a perfect way to cover up the problem. The PROBLEM is not the wisdom tooth kid who keeps a few Vicodin it is the teenager who goes into mom’s stash she keeps because she has convinced her Ob-Gyn she has chronic pain and then either uses them or worse sells them on the street to get BIG bucks to buy more drones or toys with.
    There are not enough post procedural prescriptions written in a year to feed the epidemic BUT there are surely enough chronic pain scripts to keep it going for many a decade to come
    The issue is how do we determine who has chronic pain and who doesn’t
    In certain specialties it is simple. Oncology is one. It is pretty easy to treat cancer patients with pain meds as they are in need. How about the back pain patient or the menstrual cycle patient or the headache patient? How do we KNOW they are legitimate?
    Pushing for limits on post-surgical patients is an effort in insanity. ALL that will do is to fill EDs throughout the entire nation with legitimate pain patients in need of more meds because the initial prescription was insufficient and the doctor was unable to call in or otherwise a refill since the DEA/FDA has eliminated that option for anything realistically looking like a pain med
    The drug addiction process is not caused by the one-time surgical patient nor the procedure based practice. It is fueled and even caused by the chronic patient who is not likely in pain looking for more and more drugs some of which are moved to nefarious places and people
    What is needed is to legalize the low-end stuff like MJ and tax it federally so that the money can be then used to create viable treatment programs for the rest of the drug category addicts.
    Trying to put a healthcare issue into political or legal playing fields hasn’t worked since I started in the 70’s and won’t anytime soon. What is needed is to look at this like Post-Prohibition and legalize control and tax then use the money to research ways to help the genetic issue that affects the addicts. Why do some who drink a beer get drunk and then go into a full-blown addiction behavior while others drink the same and go to work the next day quite fine? THAT is the key. Some people take one hit of cocaine and are forever addicted and crave it while others can walk away quite content until or if there is ever another visit. THAT is the research that needs to be funded and with that a chemical solution to chemical abuse
    We need drugs to fight addition NOT psychological counseling. The recidivism rate of counseling addition programs is over 80% why bother
    Pain management is a euphemism for a specialty that has a huge market but no tools to use. We need NON-Opioid medication. We need tests to determine actual pain levels. We need medications so that IF we are wrong about someone we can use it to help them get clean that doesn’t require them to seek a certain physician in a needle vs haystack geography. We need technology to step up BUT that costs money and with the societal push to push the addiction process as far away from our view, there isn’t going to be any real investment anytime soon. PharmaCos are too scared to be blamed for the next drug addition compound to even consider an alternative and the CDC and NIH are running not walking away for fear that they will get sucked in and have Congress pull the little funding they do have to survive on
    Dr. Dave

  • If and I mean IF this compound works as described (and I have my doubts) but this could be the game changer we have been looking for
    IF the assumption is the medical community is to blame for the overdose/addiction rates then this solves the issue placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the individuals where it belongs
    We can now write for what we believe to be sufficient number of narcotics and if the patients decide they don’t need them they can pour the powder and water in and then toss the rest with no concern of someone getting into the remainder
    Now, what IS going to happen? That is simple. Walmart is wasting its money because human nature is going to NOT use the powder and still place the remaining drugs in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom until that rainy day down the road happens when they might just maybe need it for some pain. Instead of disposing of them the patient will hoard them
    BUT this time it is out of our hands. We wrote for them with explicit instructions to dispose of the remainder as soon as the pain drops below the need. If they don’t it is NOT in the medical community and we will be exonerated from blame right? NO WAY society will not finger us in the effort because they refuse to accept blame for the addiction in our society and prefer to find someone to blame for people who have a genetic mix-up and can’t process certain molecules properly
    Dr. Dave

    • Yes, why concern yourself with the challenge that is pain management when you can place all blame on the consumer. Over- AND underprescribing are both problems that are not going to be resolved if clinicians fail to take responsibility for their prescribing habits. So while this is an important step, it does not absolve you, Dr. Dave.

    • Definitely, because placing the blame squarely on the consumer sure is easier than navigating the difficult territory that is pain management. Prescribing practices continue to be an issue and will persist to do so until prescribers are willing to take responsibility. This is an important step, but please don’t think this in any way absolves you of your responsibility in the opioid crisis, Dr. Dave.

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