by Paul Steidler, for The Lexington Institute
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to launch a program in 2024 that will put hundreds of millions of opioid pills in the U.S. mail as consumers mail unused narcotics back to drug companies for destruction.
At best, this will be an expensive, inefficient way to dispose of these highly addictive substances. It is quite likely a significant amount of opioids will be stolen and sold illegally, resulting in many increased addictions and deaths.
At a minimum, the mail-back program should be halted for comprehensive re-evaluation. Simultaneously, increased emphasis should be placed on easy, low-cost, and proven ways to dispose of unused opioids, which get rid of them more expeditiously than putting them in the mail.
These include daily take-back programs at pharmacies and police stations along with periodic community events. Relatedly, there need to be expanded education programs so that the opioids can be turned into junk at home by combining them with bleach, kitty litter, coffee grinds, or other unpalatable pollutants, and then thrown in the trash. Opioids, though, should not be crushed.
There are commercially available in-home disposal options that are inexpensive and easy to use, such as those sold by Walmart since 2018. And, if necessary, opioids can be flushed in the toilet. Though numerous states are weary of that due to environmental concerns, flushing is better than triggering or starting an addiction.
Paul Steidler is a senior fellow with the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank in Arlington, Virginia.