UNT HSC distributing device that destroys prescription drugs in safe, eco-friendly way

Officials at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth are distributing a small number of drug-destroying bags to help show people an alternative way to dispose of potentially dangerous, or unused medications.

Verde has donated 500 pouches of Deterra, a drug deactivation device, to UNT Health Science Center officials which they will share with several of the university’s community partners and with some patients receiving care through HSC’s Geriatric Clinic, according to an HSC news release.

When warm water is added to the Deterra pouches, up to 90 pills are rendered inert and environmentally safe, the release said.

University officials say they are making the Deterra pouches available to combat overdose deaths fueled by the easy access some people have to leftover pain prescriptions in the home.

About 1.4 billion opioid prescriptions were dispensed between 2012 through 2017 and about 70% remain unused, the release said. More than 6 million Americans misused drugs in 2017 and it is crucial that more people are encouraged to destroy leftover drugs, the release said.

“The opioid crisis did not go away during COVID-19,” HSC President Dr. Michael Williams said. “In fact, hard economic times, isolation and stress can often exacerbate addiction problems.”

Samaritan House, a nonprofit organization that helps homeless individuals and families struggling with major health conditions, substance abuse and mental illness, is collaborating with HSC on this educational campaign.

“We think this will be helpful for our residents on-site and off-site,” said Tasha Reid, community development manager for Tarrant County Samaritan Housing Inc. “Not only will this project help us keep from building a stockpile of old medication, it will give clients the responsibility of safely disposing of their medication on their own.”

Experts say that the drugs most commonly abused by teens are not a certain kind, but those that were easiest to grab, according to the release. It’s the half bottle of painkillers left untouched on a dresser. Children under age 5 make up 50% of all pediatric medication poisonings – the result of accidental self-exposure, according to a March-April 2018 report in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, titled: “Prevention of Pediatric Pharmaceutical Poisonings.”

The HSC, Deterra program builds on existing drug disposal campaigns and resources promoted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The campaign is HSC’s second major opioid overdose death prevention project this year. In January, the university distributed 9,000 doses of the overdose-reversal drug Narcan and trained students, employees and community members to administer it.

Properly destroying and disposing of leftover drugs is a tactic families and communities can use to prevent substance abuse. HSC provides another safe way to dispose of unneeded and expired drugs on campus.

A secure drop box is available to the public in the HSC Police Department lobby, 3600 Mattison Ave., and it is always open.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration also maintains an online search tool to help families locate safe drug disposal sites.