Figuring out what to do with old prescription drugs can sometimes be a dilemma for people, but it’s important not to flush them down the toilet and also not to throw them in the trash. On April 30, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and local communities will present National Drug Take-Back Day in which unwanted, unneeded and expired prescription drugs can be properly disposed of, which helps protect our water.
The program began in 2010, and since then, more than 5 million pounds of old prescription drugs have been surrendered at National Take Back events, according to a DEA press release.
The release said that “These expired drugs can pose significant health hazards to toddlers, teens and even family pets who may inadvertently consume medications. Some medications are so potent that even one dose could be fatal if accidentally ingested. Throwing away certain medications in trash cans or flushing them down the toilet can be a safety and health hazard, too.”
In addition to helping prevent drug abuse, the Take Back events also help to protect our water supply.
A report by the Environmental Protection Agency notes that samples were taken from wastewater treatment plants nationwide and tested for 56 drugs including oxycodone, high-blood pressure medications, and over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol and ibuprofen. More than half the samples tested positive for at least 25 of the drugs monitored, the study said. High blood pressure medications appeared in the highest concentrations and most frequently.
“We were surprised to find that many drugs occurring across all the wastewater plants,” said Mitchell Kostich, the EPA research biologist leading the study. “We were also surprised to see so many drugs of a particular class—the high blood pressure medications—appear at those levels across the board.”
According to WebMD, both prescription and non-prescription drugs move into our water system by several means. “The drugs get into the drinking water supply through several routes: some people flush unneeded medication down toilets; other medicine gets into the water supply after people take medication, absorb some, and pass the rest out in urine or feces. Some pharmaceuticals remain even after wastewater treatments and cleansing by water treatment plants, the investigation showed,” according to the online medical information site.
Since both wastewater and potable water treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceutical drugs from the water, the best way to keep our water safe is to eliminate putting the drugs into the system in the first place through proper disposal of unneeded drugs.
Though the National Take Back Day is April 30, some communities are already collecting old prescription drugs early. Visit your city or county’s website for information on times, dates and locations.
More information about National Take Back Day, including a list of collection sites, can be found at http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/