July 23, 2018

Inadvertently increasing diversion risk

Controlled Drug Disposal: How to Reduce Drug Diversion in Health Care Settings

To prevent controlled substances like prescription pain killers and other opioids from being introduced into the surrounding environment, some health care staff may be turning to unusual places to dispose of unused or expired medications, despite facility policy. In efforts to avoid flushing controlled substances down the drain for disposal, they may opt to dispose drug waste in sharps or other waste containers, crush them into carpeting, place them in indoor plants and so on. Unfortunately, none of these medication disposal methods—including pouring drugs down the drain—are appropriate for disposing of controlled substances. Additionally, they do not meet the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulations, which require organizations to ensure that controlled waste is not retrievable once it is discarded.

In addition to being non-compliant, the above mentioned medication disposal methods also increase the risk of drug diversion as the medications are still accessible and can be diverted for recreational use.  

Correct Medication Disposal Containers are Critical

One of the best ways to properly dispose of controlled substances to limit the risk of drug diversion and to safeguard the environment is to use specially-designed waste receptacles. These medication disposal containers employ deactivating agents that render a medication useless as it is disposed, while also not allowing sharps, vials or ampoules from entering or leaving the container. The waste is subsequently treated so that it presents no threat to the environment.

How Comprehensive, Drug Disposal Training Can Reduce Risks

In addition to having the proper medication disposal containers in convenient and accessible locations, health care organizations should also be certain their staff is fully trained on how to dispose of these drugs and the risks involved if the correct disposal procedures are not followed. Staff should fully understand that flushing drugs, placing them in sharps containers or putting them anywhere else aside from a controlled substance waste receptacle is not the right way to dispose of medication. It’s also important for organizations to consider monitoring staff disposal efforts on an ongoing basis to confirm that employees are consistently following proper procedures.

Stericycle can ensure your controlled substance disposal efforts are compliant, consistent and environmentally friendly.

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