Unused Medications Fuel Opioid Crisis

By: David Schiller, President & CEO of NarcX and former DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge

person sitting on the ground


The United States is in the midst of the worst crisis in American history.  In every city, county, and state in America over 200 people die daily from the abuse of prescription drugs, or opioids. Another 2,000 plus people overdose and are revived by first-responders and emergency room personnel using Naloxone, or Narcan, and other life saving measures. In 2017 alone, 72,000 people died from the abuse of prescription drugs.

This American crisis does not discriminate. No nationality, financial success, location, intelligence level, or any other factor can avoid this opioid epidemic. Over 80 percent of addicts freely admit they obtain their pills, tablets, capsules, and liquid controlled substances from their home, or the homes of others such as friends, neighbors, or open-houses for sale. When addicts can no longer obtain opioids from a home or cannot afford to pay upwards of $80 for a single pill from a drug trafficking organization, they turn to the cheaper substitution, heroin.  If the abuse of the prescription drugs does not kill them, then the use of heroin often will.

On October 24, 2018, the President of the United States signed H.R. 6. This is commonly referred to the “Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act.”  This act was passed after three years of discussions within the House of Representatives and Senate determined to end the American opioid epidemic. For the first time in United States history H.R. 6 section 3222 grants the authority for every hospice in the United States to take and destroy a patient’s prescription so long as the disposal of these controlled substances occur “on-site” in accordance with Federal law.

This is when: (1) the disposal occurs after the death of a person receiving hospice care; (2) the controlled substance is expired; or (3) the hospice patient no longer requires the controlled substance because the plan of care of the hospice patient has been modified.

Unfortunately, as almost anyone directly associated with hospice throughout the United States will tell you, diversion from the hospice patient is an epidemic itself that directly leads to many of these overdoses and ultimate deaths.  The diversion of these controlled substance from the original patient it was prescribed to is routinely leading to self-abuse and the selling of the controlled substances to drug trafficking organizations for billions of dollars every year.

In addition, hospice nurses and administrators have been confiscating these controlled substances from the hospice patient in attempt to eliminate the associated diversion. Though they have the best intentions, they have been doing so without any authority. Furthermore, they have been flushing these controlled substances down the sink, which is contaminating our water systems.  They will also tell you they have been mixing the controlled substances with kitty litter, coffee grinds, or inside of diapers in order to eliminate them. However, these methods do not eliminate diversion and have contributed to the opioid epidemic.

The Disposal of Controlled Substances; Final Rule (Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration), dated September 9, 2014, clearly states that “sewering,” disposal by flushing down a toilet or sink, and “landfill disposal,” mixing controlled substances with undesirable items such as kitty litter or coffee grounds in a garbage collection, are examples of methods that fail to meet the “non-retrievable” standard.  If these controlled substances are not made non-retrievable on-site in accordance with DEA’s strict definition and done so in an environmentally friendly matter, any respective hospice is operating outside of their authority.

The only independently-validated method of on-site destruction of opioids in the United States for controlled substances in accordance with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s strict definition of “non-retrievable” is NarcX.  NarcX is a liquid solution that instantly eliminate the possibility for diversion on-site.  Once the NarcX container is full, the opioids are disposed of properly within the solution and it can simply be placed in the trash.



NarcX is available in numerous sizes to allow every hospice, as well as any home care, hospital, pharmacy, doctor, manufacturer, etc., to operate within their authority and eliminate diversion.  NarcX is offering initial discounts up to 50 percent off any order for hospices associated with Hospice Pharmacy Solutions.


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