Healthy You Healthy Hennepin

Prescription painkillers can be addictive

Rx Roulette

July 2016

If you’ve ever had kidney stones, disjointed joints or any major surgery, you’ve likely received prescription opioids to manage the pain. Odds are, weeks or months later, some leftover pills are still in your medicine cabinet.

That’s a problem. That cabinet is now a source of addictive opioids.

Drug addictions and overdoses are on the rise in Minnesota and nationwide. The trend has highlighted several problems: Providers are overprescribing opioid painkillers. The excess supply is being used by teens and adults. And, when abused, opioid painkillers are becoming gateway drugs.

“When the pill supply runs out at home, the addicted person often opts to buy heroin, which is cheaper to buy on the street than an illicit OxyContin pill and far more deadly,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said.

When the pill supply runs out at home, the addicted person often opts to buy heroin, which is cheaper to buy on the street than an illicit OxyContin pill and far more deadly.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek



It’s easy to flush opioids down the toilet or throw them in a landfill, but these disposal options are environmentally unfriendly, as traces can make their way into drinking water supplies.

Fortunately, Hennepin County residents have a better alternative: a medicine collection and disposal program. Since 2012, the county has destroyed more than 25 tons of prescription drugs – the weight of five ambulances – through the initiative.

Coordinated by Hennepin County Environment and the Sheriff’s Office, the program protects residents and the environment. Residents who bring their unused or expired medications to the nine drop box locations in the county help prevent abuse, accidental poisoning and water contamination.

Disposing of medications
Disposing of medication
The Sheriff's office is involved in the medication disposal program



No one is immune from the opioid epidemic. Rural, suburban and urban populations – people of every race and age – have been affected.

There were 16 opioid painkiller deaths in Hennepin County between January and April 2016. During that time, there were also 26 heroin overdose deaths. Compare that to the six heroin deaths in Hennepin County in 2008 and it’s easy to see that there’s a problem.

That’s why education is important.

This year, the Sheriff’s Office will again be at the Minnesota State Fair to educate fair goers about drug abuse prevention. The Sheriff’s Office also hosts Drug Abuse Prevention Town Halls for parents to learn about teen drug trends -- and how to talk to their kids about drug prevention.

“Too many people are dying every day across Minnesota from opioid overdose. Those deaths are preventable. I urge every family and community leader to learn what they can do to educate our youth and to take proactive steps to prevent addiction and overdose,” Stanek said.

Hennepin County Environment has helped police departments get drop boxes at their sites. And residents may soon be able to drop off unwanted prescriptions at pharmacies like they currently can at law enforcement sites; a bill is at the state legislature that would change Minnesota medication disposal law.

Medications can be disposed of for free at all Hennepin County drop box sites. For a list of locations and more information, visit the county's medicine disposal website or call 612-348-3777.


By: Nicole Hovatter and Jon Collins 

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