Prescription drug dropbox may help protect children, environment and potential addicts
Prescription medicines are essential for treating diseases and other ailments, but when they are not properly disposed of, they can be deadly. Now, Arkansans are taking steps to protect children, pets, potential abusers and the environment from threats caused by improperly discarded prescription drugs.
Agencies across Arkansas like the Office of the Drug Director, the Department of Human Services, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Arkansas Law Enforcement Community have been organizing Prescription Drug Take Back events and providing some permanent prescription drop-off boxes around the state.
The Department of Public Safety has been appointed as one permanent locations to dispose of unused, expired and undesired prescription medications. West Little Rock Rotary Club provided the dropbox, which Detective Sharon Houlette, coordinator of the Drug Take Back event, said is a convenient way for people in the community to be able to drop their prescription medications. It is available 24/7.
Some common – but dangerous and prohibited – methods of discarding prescription drugs include throwing them in the trash, crushing them before throwing them away and flushing them down the toilet.
The dropbox is the proper way to dispose of prescription medications, she said. The National Guard will escort the medications collected in the dropbox to an incinerator. Houlette reminded college students to properly dispose of drugs to protect potential abusers. “You don’t know who’s going to be around,” she said.
Potential abusers are one of the most alarming threats of improperly discarding prescription drugs. A 2007 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that Arkansas ranked the highest in the nation in the number of teens abusing of prescription pain relievers. Furthermore, more than 60 percent of teens in the United States say prescription drugs are easily obtained from parents’ medicine cabinets, a 2010 study by Partnership for a Drug Free America and MetLife Foundation found.
In 2011, Governor Mike Beebe signed Senate Bill 345, which established the Arkansas Prescription Monitoring Program. This bill aims at preventing the misuse, abuse and trafficking of prescription medications.
Prescription medications are designed for a specific individual based on his or her height, weight and health status, Arkansas Drug Director Fran Flener said in a KUAR News story. Limiting young people’s access to prescription medications that were not designed for them could potentially reduce the number of people who overdose on prescription medication.
The Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that more than 100,000 emergency room visits were caused by children less than five years old who had accidentally ingested drugs. One case was that of a 4-year-old girl who was found dead in her grandparents’ house. An autopsy showed strong opioid pain medicine in her gastrointestinal tract. Apparently, the child had ate a discarded pain patch she found in the trash.
Crushing pills before dumping them to the trash can also lead to danger. Take Back Your Meds, a group of several organizations pushing for proper disposal of drugs, said crushing pills puts the handler at risk of exposure through skin contact and inhalation of dust. Other family members and pets may also risk inhaling the dust. Because some medications are designed to work in the body over time, crushing the pills could release a really high dose.
Medicines dumped in the toilet will run with the water and pollute the water system. The chemicals in medicines can end up in streams, lakes and groundwater. Aquatic animals and humans who are swimming in the lake or using the water may be exposed to chemicals from the drugs.
The number of Arkansas youth who abuse prescription drugs has dropped in the past three years, a 2013 study by the Division of Behavioral Health Services found. Efforts like properly disposing prescription medications, buying only needed medications and centralizing medications to avoid buying more may have played a role in the decrease. More information about drop off centers and properly disposing prescribed medications can be found at www.artakeback.org.