The Illinois kiosks come amid a national opioid abuse crisis. Every day, 78 Americans die of an opioid overdose, and the number of deaths involving opioid overdoses has almost quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overdoses due to prescription opioid pain relievers — such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone — are a driving factor in that spike, according to the CDC.
In Illinois, 1,700 people died of drug overdoses in 2014, up from 1,579 in 2013, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
So far, Walgreens has installed the kiosks in more than 300 of its stores in 24 states. In all, it plans to place the kiosks in 500 stores around the country. The kiosks are available during regular pharmacy hours and are free to use.
The kiosks are “one of the best ways to ensure medications are not accidentally used or intentionally misused by someone else,” said Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency also lists 320 sites across the state where medications can be safely discarded, including many police departments. The agency cautions that wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are generally not designed to treat pharmaceutical waste.
Still, many people flush their unwanted medications, hoard them or toss them in the trash.