Improper disposal of medications that are no longer indicated or prescribed may lead to accidental ingestion causing drug interactions or adverse drug events. Accidental ingestion by children, the elderly, or pets can also occur.
Impact On Our Communities
Improper storage and disposal of unused medications is increasingly becoming a problem in communities throughout the country. While improper disposal of unused medication poses an unknown threat to the environment and our water supplies, the health effects from substance abuse are extremely alarming. The non-medical use of prescription pain relievers is now the second-most prevalent form of illicit drug use in the Nation with a 400% increase in emergency room admissions and substance abuse treatment centers.
A Drug Abuse Problem
Our national prescription drug abuse problem cannot be ignored. Every day, 2,500 teenagers use a prescription drug to get high, many for the first time. Each year more than 71,000 children ages 18 and younger are seen in emergency rooms for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. While a large percentage of kids obtain them within their own home resulting from improper storage and ease of access from their parent’s medicine cabinet, most teenagers report obtain prescription drugs from friends.
Even if you no longer have kids in your home and think this really doesn’t apply to you, think again. Do your children or grandchildren visit your home? Each year there are thousands of calls to poison control and emergency rooms resulting from the unintended consequences associated with accidental poisonings of children, the elderly and also pets. In fact, prescription drugs are quickly becoming a primary target of home burglaries putting the elderly at an even greater risk.
Medication Disposal Information
You can find detailed information regarding medication disposal
at Pima County’s Dispose A Med website.
Find A Disposal Location
Have unused medication you would like to properly dispose?
Visit the calendar for DisposeAMed events coming up.
Proper Medicine Disposal Step-by-Step
1. Don’t flush medications down the toilet or down the drain.
Sewage treatment plants cannot remove all of the pharmaceutical contaminants which could result in the pollution of our streams and the aquifers from which our drinking water is derived.
2. Don’t dispose of medications in the trash.
There is ample literature advising people to mix unwanted medications with coffee grounds, kitty litter or similar undesirable substances prior to disposal in a trash receptacle. While this method may prove adequate for preventing the accidental ingestion by children or domestic pets, it does not address the wildlife that may come into contact with the trash once it is outside of your home. Our Sonoran Desert is inhabited by numerous wildlife species including coyotes, coatimundi and our favorite cactus eating friends the javalina, with less discerning tastes that love to rummage through garbage cans. None of us wants to leave for work in the morning to find our neighborhood streets littered with drug crazed, or worse, dead javalina.
3. Bring your medications to a local Dispose-A-Med collection site, preferably still in the bottle.
Don’t dump all of your medications into a single bag when transporting to a collection site. Should you happen to get pulled over by police en route to the collection site, you may have a hard time explaining the large bag of pills in your possession. Just leave the pills in the original bottle so they are easily recognized as medications and not illegal drugs. Besides, the Dispose-A-Med members will gladly remove the labels for you to ensure your privacy and personal information is secure. The bottles are then recycled or donated to Pima Animal Control for their spay and neuter program where the bottles are reused in the dispensing of antibiotics and pain medications for pets.
4. So what happens to all those pills?
After each collection event, all collected medications are incinerated in coordination with DEA. The high temperature incinerator effectively decomposes the pharmaceutical compounds thereby preventing pollution of the air, water and environment.
Information provided by Pima County Dispose A Med