Editorials, Opinion

Safely dispose of prescription drugs

Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This is an opportunity to safely get rid of expired or unneeded prescription medications.

Drug Take Back Days are generally focused on getting opioid or other addictive medications out of circulation, but they are also the perfect time to clean out your medicine cabinet. Safely dispose of that half-filled bottle of antibiotics that didn’t work on your infection or those prescribed steroids that gave you an allergic reaction or any other prescriptions that are lying around.

The attorney general’s office is partnering with local law enforcement agencies to host 75 take back sites across the state. In Morgantown, take back booths will be open from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. this Saturday, and located at:

  • Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office on Walnut Street
  • Pierpont Landing Pharmacy
  • Kroger at Suncrest Towne Centre
  • Mon Health Medical Center

“Anyone with outdated or unused prescriptions should participate in this safe way of disposing of those medications,” Morgantown Police Chief Eric Powell told The Dominion Post earlier this week. “It’s an easy, safe and effective way to get these medications off the street.”

But since today is Earth Day, it also seems worth mentioning that take back programs are also the safest way to dispose of unwanted prescriptions, environmentally speaking. While the FDA does allow for some medications to be flushed down the toilet, the chemicals in the meds do make their way into our water systems. In reality, most wastewater treatment systems aren’t designed to remove medications from the water. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, “Recent studies have found that medicines flushed down the drain can contaminate our lakes and streams, which can hurt fish and other aquatic wildlife, and end up in our drinking water.”

It’s also not a good idea to throw prescriptions in the trashcan. The website Take Back Your Meds debunks several myths about disposing of medications, such as “mixing medicines with coffee grounds or kitty litter before throwing them in the trash will prevent drug theft.”

Unfortunately, mixing the drugs with something gross isn’t a foolproof disposal plan. It won’t stop kids or animals who like to play in trash from getting their hands (or paws) on the medication, which can lead to accidental poisoning. And in the case of addictive prescriptions, it won’t stop an addict from digging the pills out of the trash.

And, once again, prescriptions that get thrown away can still end up contaminating our water supplies. Landfills still give off wastewater (aka, “garbage juice” — yuck) that can end up in lakes, streams and groundwater systems.

Take Back Day is truly the best way to get rid of prescription drugs. And if you can’t make to one of the booths on Saturday, there are several places around town that have drug disposal kiosks year-round. The Walgreens on Chestnut Ridge Road has one such kiosk in front of its pharmacy counter. Morgantown’s Public Safety Building at 300 Spruce St. also has a disposal box. Safe.Pharmacy has a permanent drug disposal locator, which you can use to find the closest kiosk to you — just put in your address or zip code (https://safe.pharmacy/drug-disposal/).