Careless Disposal of Expired and Leftover Medication Is Dangerous

Opioid abuse has become a cause of major concern for all Americans and Colorado is one of the worst affected states. The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing reported that in 2015, nearly one Coloradan succumbed to opioid overdose in every 36 hours. In addition, 259 people in the state died from prescription opioid overdose, more than the number of deaths caused due to homicide. Of late, locked metal green boxes, positioned securely in the police department lobbies, are commonly seen at different locations in the state. They seem to be America’s closest ally in the fight against drugs, particularly prescription opioids.

As part of the Drug Take-Back Program undertaken by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), these boxes have been kept in many Colorado counties to dispose of prescription drugs. Residents are invited to drop of their unused medications or leftover medications under anonymity. According to police commander Doug Ernst from the Castle Rock Police Department, residents drop off a good 30 pounds of prescription medication each week and more than 1,200 pounds a year.

Expired prescription meds or leftovers are equally responsible for fueling the opioid crises as much as the nefarious network of drug dealers. Unfortunately, no one talks about these low-hanging fruits. The law enforcement agencies tighten the noose around the drug traffickers but the fight against the opioid menace starts at home. Ill-informed citizens store them in cabinets which are easily accessible to other family members, especially toddlers and teens, or dispose them of carelessly without realizing the repercussions.

Bad practices for disposing of medications

Here are some of the common ways of disposing of medications, which could well be avoided:

  1. Crushing drugs: Throwing the pills in the trash can is not a good idea. While one could think that he/she has got rid of the pills and saved himself or herself from misuse, the fact is that such practices cause irredeemable harm to others. It is ecologically unsustainable. Small animals that roam about at night like raccoons and cats may feed from the trashcans. Even if one kept the medications in separate packets, chances are that a stray animal could end up consuming them while attempting to bite a piece of leftover food. Packets of medication could also invite the attention of those who would go to any length to get their supply of drugs. Those with severe addiction are not averse to picking up leftovers from dustbins secretively at night. Further, prescription drugs could seep into the water table and harm the environment.
  2. Flushing down: Flushing down the drain or into the toilet is equally toxic. Whether it is antibiotics or antidepressants or prescription painkillers, most of these drugs have harmful synthetic constituents than endanger aquatic life. The contaminated marine life like fish become a part of the food chain and in the long run what one threw down the toilet comes back on his/her table.
  3. Mixing with coffee and cat litter: Another favorite practice of disposing of drugs is mixing them with cat litter or coffee grounds. However, this practice is again responsible for ecological damage as the coffee grinds could percolate in the soil and the water table. Those who are on the lookout for their daily drug dose could keep a watch on such practices and attempt to retrieve the discarded drugs from the waste.
  4. Hanging on to old medications: Hanging on to old medications is not a good policy either. These are more likely to be misused. One could forget to lock a cabinet or do not remember that there is a stash of unused opioids or antidepressants around. This can increase the likelihood of small kids and teens misusing them.

Seek treatment for prescription drug abuse

Apparently, the safest way to dispose of medications are the drop boxes. Walmart has also taken the initiative to install them at all of the company’s 8,000 stores across the nation. The federal government and state officials are doing their bit to curb opioid misuse, and now it’s time for the citizens to play their role and help each other in preventing fatalities.