hands typing on laptop

SAFE Workplaces: The Role of Drug Deactivation and Disposal in Deterring Drug Misuse

Learn how SAFE Project’s new initiative is bringing prevention resources to the workplace  

By: Admiral James Winnefeld, SAFE Project cofounder   

As record-setting overdose deaths continue to make national headlines, it’s clear that there’s a critical need to address substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health issues in every sector of our country. About 63% of Americans are part of the U.S. workforce, making the workplace a crucial space for activities designed to educate and support workers’ wellbeing.

American businesses lose $500 billion to $1 trillion each year due to unaddressed behavioral health disorders in the workplace, but few employers make drug misuse prevention or mental health benefits a central part of their wellness programs.

SAFE Project, the national nonprofit I founded with my wife, Mary, after losing our 19-year-old son to an accidental opioid overdose, launched the SAFE Workplaces initiative to help employers protect workers and reduce the costs associated with behavioral health issues.

Addressing Drug Misuse and Mental Health at Work

Since 2017, SAFE Project’s efforts to end the opioid epidemic have focused on SAFE Campuses, SAFE Communities, SAFE Veterans, and SAFE Workplaces. In 2020, we realized the critical role drug deactivation and disposal plays in preventing medication misuse and how important access to effective disposal resources is to the groups we serve. Today, proper drug disposal is woven into all aspects of our mission because it’s a tangible way for everyone to help fight back against addiction.

In working collaboratively to bring solutions to these core groups, we recognized the impact of SUDs and mental health disorders on businesses and the important position employers have in their employees’ and families’ lives.

SAFE Workplaces offers a suite of training and technical assistance products and services tailored to a company’s specific needs. A key focus is educating workers on the importance of proper drug disposal in preventing misuse and providing them with the tools to remove unused medications from their homes.

We work with executive leadership and HR departments to increase access to safe, permanent at-home drug disposal by making the Deterra® Drug Deactivation and Disposal System available to workers. Deterra Pouches are a cost-effective and practical resource for workers to properly deactivate and dispose of unused medication in their own homes, helping prevent potentially dangerous medications from being misused, ending up in the wrong hands or leading to a tragic overdose.

Investing in prevention through a workplace drug deactivation and disposal campaign can help save lives and reduce the costs associated with substance misuse.

Pills being poured into hand

One in 12 U.S. workers is dealing with an untreated substance use disorder, but employers can help reduce the risk of prescription drug misuse by educating workers about the importance of proper drug deactivation and disposal. 

The Employer’s Role in Drug Misuse Prevention

Organizations that address the behavioral health concerns of their employees, families, and the communities in which they work and live, save both money and lives.

SAFE Workplaces can help make prevention and proper drug disposal part of your wellness offerings, as well as provide training and guidance on programming and policies for employers. The time to recognize and respond to employee wellness is now.

Visit safeproject.us/workplaces for more information on tools and resources to protect your workforce.


Admiral Sandy Winnefeld

About the Author

Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld served as the ninth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the United States’ second highest-ranking military officer. In 2017, Winnefeld co-founded the national nonprofit SAFE Project with his wife Mary after losing their son to an accidental drug overdose. In 2020, Winnefeld was appointed to the Congressional Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking.

Read Next

Learn more about how employers can help workers experiencing mental health and substance use issues with practical resources like Deterra.

warehouse workers

Invest in Prevention

Learn more about how a workplace drug deactivation and disposal campaign can help save lives and reduce business costs.

Woman at desk wearing mask

A slow transition

As employers prepare for a return to on-site work, there are proactive steps they can take to alleviate employee stress and mental health concerns.

Verde CEO Jason Sundby

Deterra + SAFE Project

CEO Jason Sundby interviews SAFE Project co-founder Admiral James Winnefeld about the role of drug deactivation in workplace prevention.