How should you dispose of expired or unused prescription medications in your medicine cabinet? Flush them down the toilet? Throw them in the trash, right?
Hold on a second – don’t rush to flush or toss your old medications! It’s important to consider safety and environmental issues before you dispose of those old pills and potions from your household medicine cabinet.
Safety Concerns from Prescription Drug Disposal
Prescription drugs play a very important role in treating conditions and diseases, often providing relief to individuals with many different health issues and needs. However, when prescription drugs are not used in the manner for which they were prescribed or intended dangerous consequences can occur. Here are some concerning statistics happening in our local communities throughout Pinellas County, Florida:
- Increases in pharmaceutical overdose deaths and illegal diversion cases directly led to the creation of Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Strategic Diversion Unit in 2009.
- Prescription overdose deaths continue to be on the rise in Pinellas and Pasco Counties, according to the District 6 Medical Examiner’s Office.
- Ease of availability and perceptions of being safe since prescribed by a doctor has helped make prescription drugs the abused drug of choice.
- The abuse of prescription drugs and deaths by overdose, either alone or in combination with alcohol, now far surpass cocaine, ecstasy, GHB, marijuana, and heroin.
- In Florida alone, 5% of the total deaths in the state during 2009 involved at least one prescription drug. Oxycodone addiction is one of the contributors to the spiked increase of overdose deaths in the state.
Florida is not the only state in the union facing these issues and the heartache caused by prescription drug abuse continues to grow exponentially. Because of this it is very important to keep these powerful medications from falling into the wrong hands.
Environmental Concerns from Prescription Drug Disposal
As if the safety concerns weren’t enough, there are environmental concerns linked to improper disposal of prescription drugs.
- Trace levels of drug residues are being found in surface waters, such as lakes and rivers, and even in some community drinking water supplies.
- Most drug residues enter water sources when people take prescription drugs and naturally pass non-absorbed residues through their bodies.
- Waste water treatment facilities are not designed to treat flushed medications. These residues pass through the treatment facilities and can harm plants or fish downstream.
Proper Prescription Drug Disposal Methods
So, how do you properly get rid of unwanted or expired prescription medications in light of these safety and environmental concerns? Pinellas County Utilities shares some great information on their website addressing that question:
- Take advantage one of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Event at a location near you.
- In Pinellas County, take your unwanted medications directly to Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office lobby Lock Your Meds box. These boxes are available two convenient locations between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.
– North District Station, 737 Louden Ave., Dunedin (582-6900)b)
– Sheriff’s Administration Building, 10750 Ulmerton Rd., Largo (582-6200)
- If either of these options are not available, follow any disposal instructions on the medication packaging or talk to your pharmacist.
- More disposal information can readily be found online at SMARxT Disposal.
Your community and the environment appreciate your efforts to fight against prescription drug abuse.