Chesney Guest Column: Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse in Northwest Illinois

Every year in Illinois, thousands of families lose a loved one to the preventable tragedy of opioid addiction and prescription drug abuse. Unused or unwanted medicine needs to be disposed of properly to help prevent accidental poisoning, substance abuse, and contamination of water resources.

Let’s take a quick look at the statistics and then get specific about what each of us can do to make a difference.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were 2,944 Opioid Overdose Deaths in 2020, a 33% increase from 2019. 83% of all drug overdose deaths in Illinois involved opioids. The increase in the number of fatalities is attributed to the rise of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Since 2013, synthetic opioid deaths in Illinois have increased a whopping 2,736%. Statewide in 2020, there were 19,451EMS responses to opioid overdoses.

Together we can begin to reverse these alarming trends, starting with getting unused medications out of our homes. I am partnering with Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders to host a drive-through Prescription Drug Drop-Off event in Lena on Saturday, August 6 from 9:30am-11:00am. Our event will collect your unwanted or expired prescription drugs and safely dispose of them free of charge.

Our Prescription Drug Drop-Off will take place at Alliance Commodities – Pearl City Elevator, Inc. located at 4306 W Galena Road in Lena (just North of US 20 on Galena Road across from Rafters) from 9:30am-11:00am on Saturday, August 6. Accepted medications include prescription medications, prescription ointments & patches, pet medications, vitamins. Prohibited items not accepted are needles and illegal drugs.

If you are not able to make it to our event in Lena, that’s okay! There are several ways to easily and safely dispose of unused medications right at home. The Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) of Illinois, an organization of leaders from across our state focused on ending the opioid epidemic, has a couple of suggestions:

  • You can use a home disposal kit. You’ll put unused medications in the included pouch, add water, seal and dispose of it in the trash. These kits or similar products can be purchased at your local pharmacy or online from a variety of retailers.
  • You can use household materials to dispose of your unused medications. Mix your medicines with kitty litter or old coffee grounds in an airtight container and dispose of it in your trash can.

Once finished using a prescription medication as directed by a medical professional, safely dispose of it rather than keep it in your medicine cabinet for future use.

Beyond prescription drug disposal, the State of Illinois offers a helpful resource for anyone struggling with substance abuse get the assistance they need to break the cycle of addiction. The Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances, supported through a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services, offers 24/7 service by phone, text, or live online chat. If you or a loved one need help, call 833-234-6343 or text “HELP” to 833234. You can also visit www.helplineil.org to live chat with a professional or find more resources.

Please let your family, friends and neighbors know about our Prescription Drug Drop-Off in Lena coming up on August 6, or share the information and resources available from the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances noted above.

Together we can safely dispose of these drugs in our communities, but more importantly, save lives.