What do water, public health, a police station and your medicine chest have in common?
By Melissa Mullins
So what do water, public health, a police station and your medicine chest have in common? They are all a part of National Prescription Drug Take-back Day.
There’s an epidemic in this country, and it’s killing people and ruining lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have never been higher, and the majority of those involve opioids, including prescription opioids. It’s estimated that nearly half the people who misuse prescription opioid medications obtain them from friends and family members, and that there is a nationwide reservoir of such drugs in our medicine cabinets. There are many facets to tackling this complex and critical issue, but you can play a part by ensuring proper disposal of all unused and expired medications in your medicine chest.
Additionally, about 60,000 young kids end up in emergency rooms in the US each year because they got into medicines when no one was looking. Common over the counter medicines like aspirin, multi-vitamins or other pain relievers and even personal care products like diaper ointment are often culprits. Keeping medicines up and away from kids is important but so is proper disposal of unused or unwanted medications, including over the counter (OTC) products.
And last but certainly not least, so called down the drain chemicals are part of what scientists, like Dr. Bryan Brooks at Baylor University, call “contaminants of emerging concern” (CEC’s). When we take medicines, or use products on our bodies, some of it ends up washing down the drain or being flushed down the toilet. Modern wastewater treatment plants, while true marvels that clean up a lot of nastiness from our water, are not designed to remove these CEC’s and may or may not (depending on the compound) do a good job of it. What happens when these compounds make their way back to the river? Researchers have shown that many common compounds can be detected in water and in fish tissue and can have a negative effects on organisms and ecosystems.
You may think you probably don’t have much- that’s what I thought too! A few years ago, I went through my cabinet and removed all expired medications (OTC and prescription) for drug takeback day. Here’s what I took to the police station:
OK OK you say- I am convinced to clean out the medicines in my cabinet! Can I just throw them in the trash or flush them down the toilet? Hopefully you now understand why flushing is a bad idea, but the landfill doesn’t want them either, which is why the City of Waco Solid Waste Services works to help divert them from the waste stream.
Anna Dunbar with the City of Waco shares this information from Spring 2017 regarding the amount of medications diverted from the waste stream during two events: “the DEA reported that Waco PD had about 1,000 pounds (April 29 Drug Take-back event) and the City of Waco collected about 200 pounds during Household Hazardous Waste Day. Baylor PD had about 80 pounds (a good haul for their first time). So, that is a lot of materials put into the right hands (the DEA) for safe disposal.”
The next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day (includes over the counter medications) is coming this Saturday to a police station near you- see locations and times below:
Melissa Mullins coordinates education and outreach for the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research at Baylor University where she enjoys engaging audiences of all ages around the important topic of water!
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.