And in those three stories lies a conundrum; how to protect the environment vs. having unwanted medications in the house that increase the risk of intentional and accidental ingestion. To reduce the risk of accidental poisoning by medications, it was at one time advocated to flush unwanted medication down the toilet. This solution was simple and easy. However, at the turn of the century, data began to appear which showed that trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs were being found in rivers and drinking water around the country. Soon afterwards, multiple studies showing that biological changes were occurring in wildlife located downstream from pharmaceutical plants or urban waste treatment plants were published.
To reduce the burden on the environment, flushing unwanted medications became taboo . . . but at the same time people were dying (and continue to die) in increasing numbers due to abuse, misuse and accidental ingestion of prescription medications. Every survey on prescription drug abuse shows that raiding the medicine cabinet of family, friends and acquaintances is the easiest way for people to obtain controlled substances. The limiting of options for medication disposal leads to increased medication stores in the home, which then leads to increased risk for family members and visitors.
This conundrum can be solved on September 29.
Saturday, September 29 is National Take Back Day. It is a day scheduled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration when expired and unused medication can be turned in at drop-off sites in communities around the country. Drugs collected at drop-off sites will be inactivated and incinerated, ensuring that the drugs are not misused and that they do not end up in our rivers, lakes or drinking water.
Information from the DEA on this initiative can be found here.
To find an approved medication drop-off site in your community click here.
If you cannot find a drop off site near you, other methods of medication and drug disposal can be found on the IPC website.
Whether it is National Take Back Day, or any other day of the year, make sure to dispose of your unused or expired medications appropriately to reduce drug misuse and protect our environment!