Friday, January 26, 2018

Safe Drug Disposal in Rhode Island

by Rachel Calabro, Riverkeeper

When we have drugs in our homes that are expired or no longer needed, many of us are confused as to the safest way to dispose of them. The Rhode Island Department of Health recommends that medications in your home be disposed of at these safe disposal and drug take back sites.

You may be tempted to flush your medications or just toss them in the trash, but both of these methods have some negative consequences.

Flushing your medications can be problematic because the substances can get through the wastewater treatment plant and into our waterways, affecting fish and wildlife. Traces of medications, including as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and high blood pressure drugs, are already showing up in water samples. If you have a septic system, these pharmaceutical substances can leach out into the groundwater and enter our drinking water supply, causing problems for people who are sensitive to these substances. And while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently recommends flushing certain prescription pain medications because of the current opioid crisis and a desire to prevent these meds from being discovered and stolen, doing so creates a problem for water quality.

Infographic: Drugs in the Water cycle

If you dispose of drugs in the trash, the common recommendation is to take them from their original container and hide them in another bag mixed with something like coffee grounds; the idea here is to disguise them so they aren’t accidentally found by pets or children. Unfortunately, while safer then flushing, trash disposal creates similar problems, because the medications end up in landfills and can contribute to pollution.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 53 percent of people who misused prescription opioids got them from family or friends. Because of this, CVS Health has increased the number of drug take back sites, and many retailers, including Walmart, are providing packets called DisposeRx, which contain a substance that renders medication inert and unusable.

More and more people are taking drugs for various health issues, and these products are entering waterways. The best way to protect ourselves is to use safe drug take back sites.