Properly disposing of prescription drugs in one’s medicine cabinet can help reduce drug abuse and protect the environment, according to local pharmacists.
In an attempt to give residents an opportunity to safely dispose of their unneeded medication, sheriff’s offices in many counties across the country will take part in a Prescription Drug Take-Back Day slated for Sept. 26.
The Merced County Sheriff’s Department, which has participated in the initiative in the past, has broadened its efforts to now offer a permanent drop-off station at its 700 W. 22nd St. location.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Delray Shelton said that about a year ago, the agency received a grant from CVS Pharmacy, which allowed it to maintain a year-round deposit station. Shelton said it is popular and allows the department to collect far more prescription drugs than it did with a one-day event.
“We get calls almost daily about this,” he said. People can dispose of over-the-counter drugs as well as syringes.
The Sheriff’s Department is hoping to secure additional funding for a similar drop box at its Delhi and Los Banos substations.
Neighboring counties, like Madera, also will participate in this month’s Drug Take-Back Day.
“Many prescription and over-the-counter medications include strong chemicals that should not be introduced into our landfills or sewers,” Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney said.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, prescription and over-the-counter drugs that are poured down a sink or flushed down a toilet can pass through wastewater-treatment systems and end up in rivers or lakes, where they can harm plants and wildlife.
More than half of 301 patients surveyed by the National Institutes of Health in a 2006 study reported storing their unused medications in their homes, and more than half had flushed them down a toilet. Only 22.9 percent reported returning medication to a pharmacy for disposal, according to the study.
In Madera, drop-offs will be taken from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 26 at the sheriff’s main office at 2725 Falcon Drive. In Oakhurst, medication can be dropped off at the sheriff’s station at 48267 Liberty Drive.
No one dropping off unwanted, unused or expired medicines will be required to answer questions or provide identification, according to officials. If the medication is still in its original container, people are asked to remove identifying information from the prescription label.
Brian Elmore, director of pharmacy at Mercy Medical Center in Merced, encourages people to make use of these drug take-back programs and drop-off stations. There are not a lot of places to properly dispose of medication, he said. Due to regulations, the hospital, for example, cannot take back prescription drugs.
“Every medication has an expiration date, a date in which it loses strength and potency,” Elmore said. “If it’s expired, get rid of it.”
Clearing expired or no-longer-used medication also helps eliminate the possibility of prescription drugs falling into the hands of children and teens, he said.
And simply throwing medication in the trash is not the best way to go about it, he said. “They go right into landfill and will make their way back to the water supply,” he said.