Proper prescription disposal essential

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2018

Improper disposal of prescription medications can have a disastrous impact on the local environment and community.

Many common medications have ingredients that are maintained and controlled by government agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration. These controlled substances, if used by the wrong people, could lead to addiction, sickness or even death.

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According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than six million people abused prescription drugs across America that year. While many of these cases resulted in only minor injuries, more than 200,000 people died from prescription overdoses between 1999 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control website.

The majority of these incidents were intentional. Among these, however, there were a few that were accidental. An article by the Federal Drug Administration states that in 2007, about 9 percent of improper medical use that was reported to the Poison Control Centers was accidental. A portion of these accidental exposures included children younger than 6 – many of whom died due to an overdose, the article states.

To prevent accidental exposure to prescription medication with controlled substances, the FDA has several recommendations for disposing of old, unused or unwanted medication.

First, it is best to locate an entity that is authorized to accept and dispose of these types of medications. In Picayune, Picayune Drug Company is equipped to take back unused or unwanted prescriptions for disposal. Company clerk Stacey Kennedy said medication must be securely sealed before being brought into the pharmacy. Once a medicine is handed in, it is stored temporarily in a secure box until it is picked up by Bio-Cycle, a medical waste company with a branch in Gulfport, who then handles disposal of the medication.

Besides turning in medication to a pharmacy, the Drug Enforcement Agency and local law enforcement agencies occasionally hold drug take back events across the United States. During those events, people can turn in prescription medication at local law enforcement agencies. While no police departments in Pearl River County are participating in the 2018 drug take back program, there are other law enforcement agencies nearby that are participating. The Pass Christian Police Department, Slidell Police Department and Bogalusa Police Department are all participating in the national drug take back program on Saturday, April 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

While the Picayune Police Department no longer participates, Assistant Chief Jeremy Magri said it is very important to take the time and effort to properly dispose of unwanted medication. Turning in unused prescription drugs helps keep the substances out of the wrong hands, he said.

“Drug take back programs are excellent,” Magri said. 

The FDA website states that if drug disposal programs are inaccessible, medications that are classified as controlled substances can be flushed down the toilet or the sink. The website says this method is more effective, since throwing drugs away or mixing them with dirt or coffee grinds like other medications can still leave enough debris to be ingested by children or animals.

Some concerns have been raised about the potential impacts flushing controlled medications could have on the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency warns against flushing prescription medication unless the label explicitly states it can be flushed. Concerns about flushing medication include contamination of local water supplies and negative effects on nature.