22 Sep 2011

Get Rid of Old Drugs: Go To Your Takeback Day on October 29th

Delaware residents dispose of their unwanted, unused, and expired drugs

Stocks of old drugs in medicine cabinets are a big problem and disposal of them can be an even bigger one–witness Prozac-happy Texas bluegills and gender-confused Colorado sucker fish that have absorbed hormones from birth control patches. Obviously, the fish aren’t the ones popping pills. With 45 percent of Americans taking at least one prescription drug, we flush away a constant flow of old and unused medications that keeps on working  down the drain, to the waste treatment plant and into waterways.

Often, patients have been instructed to flush all old medications as a safe, quick means of eliminating drugs. Not a good idea. The trouble is that once medications reach sewage treatment plants, removal rates can vary, approaching zero in some cases, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Exposure Research Laboratory.

That sludge may then be mixed in commercial soil amendments used by farmers, with drug levels in the parts per million. In 2006, researchers at Eastern Washington University detected pharmaceuticals including anti-epileptics and anti-depressants in commercially sold sludge.

Meanwhile, the US Geological Survey in a study of 139 streams detected non-prescription drugs more frequently than almost all other organic wastewater contaminants. Moving full circle, pharmaceuticals have found their way into drinking water supplies, including Montana well water and New Jersey tap water.

If all that weren’t bad enough, drugs in medicine cabinets are routinely stolen and abused, posing a serious public health hazard.

These days there’s a better choice: drug take-back programs. Every six months, the Drug Enforcement Agency schedules a National Drug Presciption Take Back day and the next one is coming up on October 29th. The last two events collected more than 309 tons of pills nationwide. To find a take back location near you, visit the DEA’s National Take Back Initiative page. Then gather up all those old pills you don’t need anymore and get rid of them.