It’s no secret that the compounds and chemicals found in prescriptions and over-the-counter medications have also been found in our lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater and drinking water, and the old adage to flush unused prescriptions is now the least desirable option for clearing out your home and medicine cabinet. We now have options to help minimize the pharmaceutical ingredients found in our waters.
Saturday is the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Prescription Take Back Day. Originally designed as an effort to curb prescription drug abuse, especially among teens, it has other benefits as well. By keeping these chemicals and compounds out of our waters, we keep them out of our bodies, minimizing the effects on our health. It also helps retain the effectiveness of our existing pharmaceutical options, as environmental exposure can lead to drug-resistant germs and “superbugs.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported that 45,581 pounds, or 23 tons, worth of prescription drugs were dropped off at collection sites throughout Wisconsin during the April 2013 Take Back event, making our state one of the largest contributors of unwanted medications in the country.
To find a facility or medical waste drop site near you, a good starting place is the DEA website, which offers a searchable database of sites near you that will take old, unused and expired medications; you can search by city and state or by ZIP code.
Interestingly, some research on the topic also found that Wisconsin has a Drug Repository program. Patients may donate certain unused or discontinued medications and supplies to a participating pharmacy or medical facility. Those items will be given to individuals with cancer or chronic disease that do not have insurance or are underinsured. There are, understandably, restrictions on what can and cannot be donated; the website doesn’t specify what drugs can be donated other than to list a few that cannot, but you learn more on the website.
Have other non-pharmaceutical medical supplies you want to dispose of properly? The DNR offers this resource.
While the above disposal options have numerable benefits, responsible medical waste management starts before you even open the bottle. Take the full course of medication as prescribed. For as-needed medications, talk with your provider about obtaining a quantity you’ll reasonably use, reducing waste and possibly out-of-pocket costs. Store medications properly to reduce spoilage.
Update: Please check with your pharmacy as well. Some pharmacies provide take-back programs.