Retail giant Walmart is offering a way for people to get rid of any leftover opioids they might have by giving away packets that turn the painkillers into a useless gel.
Walmart announced on Wednesday that it will be providing the packets for free with opioid prescriptions that are filled at any of its 4,700 pharmacies in the United States, New York Daily News reports.
The tiny sachets are made by DisposeRX, and contain a powder that is poured into prescription bottles containing the pills. When mixed with warm water, the powder then transforms the pills into a biodegradable gel to be safely thrown in the trash, rendering them useless.
The powder works on other prescription drugs and for pills, tablets, capsules, patches or liquids alike, DisposeRX says.
An estimated four million Americans are now addicted to prescription painkillers, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA says that these drugs are commonly taken or received from friends and family who leave unused pills in their homes.
Studies have shown that many patients end up with leftover opioids and store them improperly in their home medicine cabinets. Authorities recommend that painkillers should be kept in their original packaging and stored out of reach of teens and children, preferably in locked cabinets.
Walmart says that customers in its pharmacies can request for the free packets any time, and that it will offer patients who fill prescriptions for chronic conditions a packet of the powder every six months.
Mallinckrodt PL, an opioid manufacturer, has a similar program. The company said that as of last fall, it had donated around 1.5 million drug disposal packets across the country.
Other drugstore stores like Walgreens and CVS collect unused medications at their stores. People can also bring leftover opioids to hospital pharmacies or police stations for disposal.
The Food and Drug Administration says that for home disposal, opioid painkillers should be mixed with biodegradable items like use coffee grounds or kitty litter before disposing of them in a sealed bag.