Of the 130 Americans who will die each day from opioid overdose, 46 will have overdosed on prescription opioid medications. The opioid epidemic has become one of our nation’s largest public health crises. Because many individuals may have access to prescription medications of family members or friends, responsible medication disposal has become increasingly important to prevent harm.

This fall, I worked on a professional project at local Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), which aimed to increase education about safe medication disposal. These clinics provide comprehensive healthcare services to underserved patients, many of whom live in rural areas or have limited resources. I collaborated with a pharmacist to create educational materials, including a poster with practical disposal solutions that do not require medical supplies and handouts directing patients to the closest medication disposal locations. We also developed an interactive activity that utilized candy, used coffee grounds, and plastic bags to demonstrate how to destroy unwanted medications at home if accessing a drug disposal center was unreasonable.

This project empowered patients to protect loved ones from medication misuse and inspired students by allowing them to directly impact local communities through education. This experience challenged me and my classmates to reframe what we have learned in school to facilitate safe medication disposal for patients with limited access to transportation and resources. As someone who is passionate about combating the opioid epidemic in America, I am proud to have taught my community how to fight medication misuse at home every day.

The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that persists as one of the greatest challenges faced by our current healthcare system. Through consistent medication disposal, everyone can help their respective communities combat addiction before it develops.