It's rare to pick up the newspaper or turn on the nightly news without seeing a story about the growing opioid epidemic spreading throughout our country. There are many factors that have contributed to this tragic dilemma, but there is one step in particular that we can all take to lessen the risk.
A recent Consumer Reports survey found that about one-third of Americans haven't cleaned out the medicine cabinet in the past year; nearly one-fifth haven't done so in the past three years. Paired with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclusion that a major risk factor for drug overdoses in children and adults is easy access to multiple medications, it becomes apparent that prevention begins at home.
However, it's not always easy to know exactly how to dispose of old medications. There's a right way and a wrong way. Thanks to our forward-thinking sheriff's department, in Polk County it's easy to find the right way.
If you're out and about, you can stop by the Polk County Sheriff's Office to get rid of your unwanted medicine. The sheriff's office has made it as convenient as possible. A locked drop box is located in the jail bonding lobby and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's a safe place to get rid of those old pills. It should be pointed out that old syringes cannot be disposed there.
The sheriff's office also occasionally hosts drug takeback events that are authorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
In April of this year, a nationwide Take Back Day collected more than 949,000 pounds of prescription drugs that were turned in at almost 6,000 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,500 state and local law enforcement partners. More than 8 million pounds of pills have been turned in since the Take Back Events began, according to the DEA.
While it may be tempting to just toss those old drugs in the garbage, that is not recommended for a wide variety of medications. And even if it is appropriate for certain drugs, there is a right way to do it.
Throwing drugs in the trash is allowed if the label or instructions provided when you bought the item say otherwise.
If you throw it in the trash:
- Remove the drugs from the original container
- Mark out all identifying information on the container or pill bottle to keep your identity safe.
- Mix the contents with coffee ground, dirt, kitty litter or other undesirable substance and place in sealable bag, empty can or container
- Discard in household trash
Flushing drugs down the toilet or down the sink is also not appropriate. That is only allowed if the patient information leaflet or drug label says it is OK.
What else you should know:
- Do not share unused/leftover medications
- If prescribed, make sure you take all your antibiotics. Dangerous superbugs can be created by not taking all your antibiotics.
- Do not puncture or throw an inhaler into a fire
- Something you take may harm someone else
- When in doubt, ask pharmacist
It's easy to feel helpless when seeing story after story about the damage caused by the opioid epidemic, but by making sure we properly dispose of expired medications, we can become part of the solution.