Newswise — CHICAGO – October 17, 2018 – Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States are alarmingly high with an estimated 16.7 million people using prescription drugs for a nonmedical purpose in the last year. Of the nonmedical users, nearly 70% obtained their pills from family and friends. Keeping unused, excess prescription pain medications in the home leaves households vulnerable to misuse, accidents and diversion, or the non-medical use of legally prescribed medications.

Northwestern Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago are coming together with the Drug Enforcement Administration to host collection sites for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 27. The event aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of unused opioids and other prescription medications, while also educating the general public about the potential for misuse of medications. This is the second time the three organizations have come together to offer this community service – the first was during April’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

From 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, October 27, community members can safely dispose of their unused medications at five Northwestern Medicine sites. No liquids or sharps will be accepted:

  • Lavin Family Pavilion Driveway (with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago on the Northwestern Memorial Hospital campus) 259 East Erie Street Chicago, Illinois 60611
  • Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital Bays Medical Building Entrance 900 N. Westmoreland Road Lake Forest, Illinois 60045
  • Northwestern Medicine Convenient Care St. Charles (on the east side of the parking lot by Kirk Road) 2900 Foxfield Road, Suite 100 St. Charles, Illinois 60174
  • Northwestern Medicine Central Dupage Hospital (at the West parking lot across the street on Winfield Road) 25 N. Winfield Road Winfield, IL 60190
  • Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital 1302 North Main Street Sandwich, Illinois 60548

In addition to these five sites, Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital will participate in the National Prescription Take Back Day event at the DeKalb Police Department located at 700 W. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb from 10 am to 2 pm.

Unused medications thrown in the trash can be retrieved and abused, or illegally sold. If medications are flushed, they can contaminate the water supply. Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and protects the environment.

“National Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a vital public safety and public health issue and Northwestern Medicine is proud to again come together with Lurie Children’s Hospital and the DEA to provide our community with both a safe disposal option and education on the issue of opioid abuse and prescription drug misuse,” said Jonah Stulberg, MD, a general surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital who is leading Northwestern Medicine’s opioid reduction strategies. “In April, 321 pounds of prescription medications were collected at three Northwestern Medicine sites on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Appropriate disposal of unused medications is a critical component of curbing the opioid crisis.”

National Prescription Take Back Day is offered at locations across the country. This is the 16th opportunity in 7 years that the DEA has provided for the community to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs. The disposal events are free and no questions asked.

At Northwestern Medicine efforts are under way to reduce the number of opioids providers prescribe while also offering safe disposal options for patients, particularly after surgeries.

“Surgical providers write nearly 10 percent of all opioid prescriptions and approximately 80 percent of the pills of those 28.3 million prescriptions go unused, leaving a staggering number of pills available for diversion and leaving them vulnerable to abuse or misuse,” said Dr. Stulberg. “Recognizing we had a responsibility to provide a safe disposal option to our patients, we launched a opioid take back pilot program in our Digestive Health Center in 2017. Following surgery, patients are asked to bring any unused pain pills to their follow up appointment so they can safely dispose of them secure kiosk in the clinic. This program has been well-received by patients, giving them a safe alternative to keeping these medications in their homes.”

In its first year, Northwestern Medicine collected nearly 130 pounds of excess opioid pain pills in just one surgical clinic. In addition to safely disposing of these unused pills, Dr. Stulberg and his research team also used data collected from the patients returning pills to inform procedure-specific opioid prescribing guidelines to help surgeons determine the appropriate number of pills to prescribe depending on the kind of surgery. Northwestern Medicine is now expanding the program to other hospitals and clinics throughout its 10-hospital health system.

“Following the success of this program, we are now working to offer drug disposal collection kiosks in all of our hospitals and to find other ways to reduce our reliance on opioid prescriptions and prevent diversion of these addictive pain medications,” said Dr. Stulberg. For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or to find Take Back Day event, go to

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