ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – A health network in Pennsylvania’s Tioga County hopes to reduce the abuse of unused medications by making them harder to find. Nationally, young people who abuse prescription opioids usually get them from friends and relatives.
Laurel Health Centers are distributing special bags that can be filled with unused medications and then thrown away with the household trash.
Each bag is about the size of a half sheet of paper. Spokes woman Kristy Warren says they can be used with a variety of medications, not just opioids.
“You can place pills in it, capsules, liquid medications, transdermal medication patches,” she said. “All of those can be placed in here [the bag].”
Inside each bag is a packet of activated charcoal. Cornell chemistry professor Philip Milner said the charcoal renders the drug ineffective, but doesn’t destroy it.
“It just sort of sequesters it into these particles,” he explained, “and then your body can’t get it back out if you were, say, to eat this powder or something that had the drug loaded on it.”
Milner, who’s not involved in the project, compares what happens inside the bag to the treatment given patients who are hospitalized with some kind of poisoning. They are made to drink a charcoal mixture.
“The key to this is your body can’t break down the charcoal,” said Milner, “and it doesn’t get the drug back out so it kind of goes in irreversibly and you just excrete it.”
Laurel Health Centers have about one thousand bags available and are free upon request.