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Viewpoint: The opioid epidemic starts in the medicine cabinet

By Attorney General Brad Schimel and Chief Gordon Young

Unfortunately, it's no longer shocking to hear about overdoses due to prescription painkillers and heroin abuse in any Wisconsin community. In 2016 alone, opioids killed 827 people in Wisconsin.

But how did we get here?

Four out of five heroin addicts report that prescription narcotic painkillers were the first opiate they abused, and we know that 70 percent of people abusing prescription painkillers first got them from a family member or a friend. Sometimes through sharing, sometimes through stealing.

That's the dose of reality: Wisconsinites dying of overdoses frequently started on this deadly path by using the leftover pills found in medicine cabinets, so that's where we have to go to end the opioid epidemic.

By safely disposing of unused and unwanted prescription and over the counter drugs, we can make sure these medications don't fall into the hands of someone struggling with addiction.

On Friday, April 27, go to the River Falls Police Department between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to dispose of any unused or unwanted medications at a drug disposal location near you.

Local law enforcement and the Wisconsin Department of Justice are working very hard to stem this epidemic by opening doors to addiction treatment, working with the medical community to limit pill diversion, and dismantling heroin and fentanyl drug trafficking networks, but law enforcement can't fight this epidemic alone.

We need every household in this state to lock up medications, and safely dispose of any unused or unwanted medications.

On Friday, at our Drug Take Back event, here's what you can bring:

Do bring: Prescription (controlled and non-controlled) and over-the- counter medications, ointments, patches, inhalers, non-aerosol sprays, creams, vials and pet medications.

Do not bring: Illegal drugs, needles/sharps, acids, aerosol cans, bio-hazardous materials (anything containing a bodily fluid or blood), personal care products (shampoo, soaps, lotions, sunscreens), household hazardous waste (paint, pesticides, oil, gas), mercury thermometers.

Participants may dispose of solid, non-liquid medication(s) by removing the medication from its

container and disposing of it directly into a disposal box or into a clear sealable plastic bag.

Plastic pill containers should not be collected. Blister packages without the medications being removed are acceptable.

Liquids will be accepted during this initiative. However, the liquids, creams and sprays must be in their original packaging. Liquids without the original packaging will not be accepted.

Illicit substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine are not a part of this initiative and should not be placed in collection containers.

Every citizen in this state can play a role in solving the opioid epidemic: use prescriptions only as prescribed to you, store prescriptions securely, properly dispose of unused prescriptions, and help spread the important message about safe prescription use. Please go to to learn more about how we can make our community safer and healthier.