Happy Medication Safety Week!

Each year medication safety week is recognized during the first week of April. It is meant to draw attention to the issues surrounding medication administration and disposal for individuals, doctors, hospitals, and pharmacists. It is also a way to help prevent the inappropriate use of meds and overdose.

Although patient safety is a primary concern during this week this post will focus on the environmental impact and disposal of medications. According to Mother Nature Network, more than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in rivers, lakes, streams, and reservoirs around the world. These pharmaceuticals include antibiotics, anticonvulsants, sex hormones, and mood stabilizers and have been found in drinking water supplied to at least 41 million Americans. These small concentrations of medications detected in the environment have the potential to affect human health and the health of marine life. They most typically enter our water sources after they are expelled from the body and flushed down the toilet after being taken and partially processed.

A great way to start Medication Safety Week is to clear out your medicine cabinet and start fresh. Set aside anything that you no longer take or that is outdated and research your eco-friendly options for disposal. Medicine take-back programs are the best way to get rid of unwanted and unused medications, but you might also be able to safely dispose of them with your regular trash.

I have worked for the Department of Sanitation since 2004 and have actively participated in several medication disposal events within our district. We collaborate with the county police department and our local incinerator to ensure that residents wishing to safely dispose of unused and unwanted medications are able to do so. Additionally, every police precinct in my county has a medication drop off box that is always accessible. The medications are collected and incinerated under the supervision of a police officer.

If you’re not sure if your town has a take-back program such as the one I just described you can contact your local police precinct, your local department of sanitation, or your pharmacist. You can also check out disposemymeds.org to search for local options or find out if the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will be hosting a National Prescription Drug Take-Back day near you.

If you cannot dispose of your medications at an authorized take-back program you can sometimes dispose of them in your household trash by following these FDA guidelines:
1. Mix medicines with dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds.
2. Place the mixture in a sealed container (ex: plastic bag)
3. Throw the container into your household trash.
4. Scratch out personal info from the empty medication container and dispose of it.

Flushing medication is only advised when there are specific instructions on the label to flush immediately down the sink or toilet when no longer needed. These medications are considered especially harmful to others and require special attention.

By disposing of your unused and unwanted medications in a safe and eco-friendly manner you can prevent children, pets, or unauthorized users from accessing them and protect contamination of our water sources.  

I cleaned out my medicine cabinet and will be bringing all the expired meds to my local police precinct for disposal. Will you be organizing your medications this week?



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