Drop your drugs this Saturday morning

Today’s assignment is to check out your medicine cabinet and determine which of the drugs contained therein are still needed. You can bet on it being be a trip down memory lane. Look, there are the pain meds you took for a back ache five years ago and over here are the ones the dentist gave you in case the root canal was uncomfortable, hmmmm, when was that?

You get the picture. This Saturday, October 22 from 8 a.m. until noon, the Sandpoint Police Department, 1123 Lake Street, will be collecting no longer needed medications in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Take Back Program. Although more emphasis is put on this special day, you can actually drop off drugs Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

So, why should you get rid of them? Easy answer is because you will never take them, so why clutter up your house? They’re most likely beyond their effective date anyway. The hard answer is that drugs can, and often do, get into the wrong hands. Can’t happen to you? Think again.

“Medicines no longer being used may pose grave and unnecessary dangers to families and the people visiting their homes,” Douglas C. Throckmorton, M.D. Deputy Center Director for Regulatory Programs at the Federal Drug Administration. “For example, in the last two decades, FDA has received more than 30 reports of accidental exposure to the powerful pain medication in fentanyl patches – most of them in children under two years old.”

“Tragically, twelve of these incidents required hospitalization and another twelve were deadly. Drug Take Back programs are the preferred method for fentanyl patch disposal and frequent drug take back programs run by local communities are a big step toward preventing unnecessary deaths due to accidental medication exposure.”

Throckmorton used fentanyl as an example; the threat is any substance that can potentially be abused. He continued, “The importance is underscored when you think about the epidemic this country is facing with opioid medications. Many people who misuse medications, such as opioids, get their first dose by using medications prescribed to other people.”

Yup. Drugs are taken out of the medicine cabinets or off the kitchen table, in some cases, by those who think they’re an easy high and that they’re harmless since they were prescribed, right? Wrong. Ask our emergency department and law enforcement personnel about that one.

The other good reason for properly disposing your unneeded prescription drugs is to keep them out of the environment.

“We share the public’s concerns regarding the potential environmental impact of disposing unused medicines in household trash, or by flushing. We are working with other agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to better understand the human health and ecological risks from medicines in our water and have a shared overall goal of reducing medicine levels in our water,” Throckmorton said.

But, having said this I found mention on a FDA site about which drugs they recommend flushing down the toilet. I’ll clarify that by saying that the website said “if there isn’t a drug take back program in your area,” but I personally don’t agree with ever putting stuff down the sink or into the toilet. Sewage and water treatment plants cannot filter out some chemicals that can affect our wildlife at the least and our own drinking water at the most.

Instead mix the medications with used coffee grounds or kitty litter or anything that’s a little disgusting and put them into a sealed plastic container in the trash. You’ll want to do this with leftover liquid medications since the Drug Take Back Program doesn’t take them, needles or sharps, only pills and patches.

Last spring, according to the DEA, Americans turned in 447 tons of prescription drugs at almost 5,400 sites. “Overall in its 11 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 6.4 million pounds – about 3,200 tons – of pills.” Let’s all do our part to make this Saturday’s event a successful one.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.