Wondering how to dispose of prescription drugs?
Saturday, September 26, is the biannual Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. that day, all of the Cape’s police departments will be accepting any expired, unused and unneeded prescriptions. This is the tenth event in a very successful program to prevent pill abuse and theft.
The program runs twice a year in the fall and spring. According to the DEA, last September , Americans turned in 309 tons of prescription drugs at more than 9,500 sites operated by the DEA and their partners. A total of 2,400 tons of pills have been collected since the program began.
“It’s important to dispose of prescriptions properly,” says Angela Medeiros, pharmacy operations manager at Cape Cod Healthcare Community Pharmacies. “The most important reason is it prevents somebody else from getting them into their hands and abusing them or taking them without a prescription and harming themselves.
“The pain meds are probably the most dangerous. If something like a Fentanyl patch got into the hands of a child or even an adult, it could cause respiratory distress and death.”
Cape Cod Healthcare is co-sponsoring the Prescription Drug Take Back Day with Gosnold on Cape Cod. Representatives of the two organizations will be on hand Saturday at the Yarmouth Police Department to answer any questions residents may have about the program.
Even if you trust your children, family members and guests in your home, Medeiros says that it’s often people you wouldn’t suspect who steal drugs. The temptation is too great. In her experience it can happen to anyone, so she recommends buying a prescription lock box for those who must take pain medicine for a chronic pain condition. All pharmacies sell them.
Medeiros says cleaning out your medicine cabinet twice a year is a good idea for everyone. Once medicines expire they become less effective. Additionally, never take anything that isn’t clearly labeled, even over the counter medicines. If you don’t want to be wasteful, but are unsure of what a medicine is, you can bring it to your pharmacy for identification.
The DEA’s prescription drug drop off is anonymous to encourage maximum participation. Simply remove the labels with identifying information from the bottles and drop them in the drug disposal container in the local police station lobbies. Both prescription and over the counter drugs will be accepted but injectable medicines, needles and illegal drugs will not.
If you can’t make it to the police department on Saturday, many police departments keep the boxes in their lobby all the time.
“We do a big push on Saturday because the DEA then comes and collects them,” says Captain Heath Eldredge at the Brewster Police Department. “But we can take them anytime. We store them securely and then turn them in at the next DEA collection.”
Captain Eldredge says the drop offs are totally anonymous, but asks that people do not place loose pills in the boxes. If you don’t want to keep them in their original bottle, please put them in a Ziploc baggie.
For years, people flushed their unwanted drugs down the toilet. That practice is highly discouraged today because of the known risk of contaminating the Cape’s groundwater supply. If you are uncomfortable taking your unused meds to the police departments, Medeiros offers this suggestion:
“If you’re going to dispose of them yourself, what’s recommended is to mix the medicine with an unpalatable substance like dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds and then place the mixture in a plastic bag or old Tide bottle and then throw the container into the household trash,” she says.