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More than 300,000 prescriptions for opioids have been dispensed to Dane County residents annually since 2013. That equals about 21 million opioid pills each year. With so many pills in circulation, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) advises for Poison Prevention Week that opioid pills should be locked up, and when no longer needed, disposed of properly.

“While our healthcare community works on the opioid crisis and the issue of years of overprescribing of these drugs, our role as consumers is to make sure that these potent medications don’t end up in the wrong hands,” says Sarah Johnson, Health Education Specialist for PHMDC.

According to recent national studies, opioid poisoning incidents in younger children, 0 to 5 years of age, are generally unintentional, a result of their curiosity and exploration of their environment. The toxicity of the opioid can be greater than in an adult due to their smaller body size.

In teenagers, poisoning incidents are generally intentional, attributed to risk-taking behaviors. Many teens who use opioids without a doctor’s order get them from friends or relatives.

“So that kids of any age don’t intentionally or unintentionally get access to opioids, it’s really important that we keep them under lock and key, rather than in the medicine cabinet. What’s equally important is that if we have pills that we’re no longer taking, that we dispose of them safely,” continues Johnson.

Prescription medications should not be flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain because they can contaminate our water supply. They also should not be thrown into the trash, where they can wind up being ingested by young people or even by pets rummaging through the garbage. There are drug take-back events and MedDrop locations all over Dane County hosted by Safe Communities for the safe disposal of unused and expired medications.

In the case of an opioid poisoning, options for help include calling Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222, or emergency services at 9-1-1.


Health & Safety