SPRINGVILLE — During the fifth annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on April 27, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., collection sites at hospitals, drugstores, police departments and other locations will accept unwanted, expired or unused prescription drugs, in an effort to keep these medications off the streets, out of the hands of minors and out of the water supply.
According to a fact sheet released by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, pharmaceuticals and personal care products find their way into the water supply in a variety of ways.
That includes excreting them as waste compounds; flushing them down the toilet; discharging them as wastewater treatment plant effluent, if they are not removed by standard operations; applying them as wastewater treatment sludge, as a fertilizer or soil supplement; discharging them after veterinary application with family pets and farm animals, through wastewater treatment systems, from pastures and manure- and fertilizer-treated fields and as leachate from animal feedlots and aquaculture facilities near streams, creeks and other water bodies.
While the United States Environmental Protection Agency and United States Geological Survey have said that the effect of PPCPs on the water supply has yet to be determined, those agencies do consider them “a significant emerging threat” to water quality, fish and wildlife health and reproduction.
A survey by the USEPA and USGS have found PPCPs to be present in the Great Lakes, as well as area streams and rivers, due, in part, to consumers’ dumping medications down the drain or flushing them down the toilet, in lieu of proper disposal, according to that report.
New York Sea Grant Coastal Education Specialist Helen Domske said that, while consumers cannot control some of the ways PPCPs find their way into the water, there is one thing they can control.
“We want people to stop flushing them down the toilet or the drain,” she said.
The take-back initiative has grown, each year, since its inception. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Americans turned in 244 tons of prescription drugs at more than 5,200 sites, last year. In its five, previous drop-off events, the DEA and its partners took in more than 2 million pounds of pills.
According to the 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs.
DEA Resident Agent in Charge Dale Kasprzyk said that agents interviewed prescription drug abuse patients in local treatment centers, about where they first obtained the medications. Of those surveyed, 75 percent said they first got them from a friend or family member’s medicine cabinet and often from their own homes.
“These are young and old people, all ages,” Kasprzyk said. “It doesn’t discriminate. I think this really validates our efforts and it’s why I, for one, feel so strongly about this project.”
Kasprzyk said that all types of medications can be dropped off, not just painkillers.
“Expired meds, even if they’re not controlled, can be a danger,” he said. “Those drugs are often taken, by young people, hoping to get some kind of high. They don’t, and it can lead to some sort of medical problem. Please don’t leave those in your house. Bring them to us, so we can destroy them.”
The DEA’s take-back events came about as part of the 2011 Office of National Drug Control Policy initiative on combatting drug abuse. Disposal of unwanted, unused or expired drugs is one of four strategies that agency delineated for reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion.
The other strategies included education of health care providers, patients, parents and youth; enhancing and encouraging the establishment of prescription drug monitoring programs in all states and increased enforcement to address doctor shopping and pill mills.
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day collection site locations are found online at www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback.
For updates on New York Sea Grant activities, visit www.nyseagrant.org.