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Safe Disposal of Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs

Not a day goes by without more news of drug-related tragedies in our communities. But across the country, drug take-back programs are working to prevent these tragedies. The driving force behind these initiatives: Remove unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs from our homes to prevent misuse or accidental misuse and encourage proper disposal of the drugs.

Having unused drugs in our homes poses a risk to family members and visitors. According to a survey conducted in Pennsylvania in 2015, “41.0% of prescription-drug-using students indicated taking the drugs from a family member living in their home.” Accidental ingestion is just as harmful as misuse. Young children, toddlers, and even pets are vulnerable.

How do I safely dispose of prescription drugs?

It is never recommended to save prescription drugs (for example, antibiotics) to use later or to share with others — even if someone is being treated for the same condition for which you were prescribed the drug.

Saving drugs can be dangerous, but so can disposing of them incorrectly. When the drugs go to landfills or are flushed down the sink or toilet, they can harm our environment, especially water sources. Unfortunately, current wastewater treatment methods can’t remove all traces of drugs. For now, it is unclear if trace levels of contamination can affect humans; however, there is evidence of effects on aquatic life.3 Throwing unused drugs in the trash also poses a risk that drugs will land in the wrong hands before they even make it to a landfill.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Place all pharmaceutical drugs in a sealed container, such as the original bottle or a zip-lock bag
  • Liquid pharmaceuticals should remain in the original container
  • Personal information should be removed or marked out with a permanent marker

You can dispose of:  

  • Prescription and over-the-counter solid medications
  • Tablets and capsules
  • Pet medicines

You may not drop off:

  • Intravenous solutions
  • Injectables, syringes, or needles (e.g., EpiPens); these need to be taken to a health care professional’s office or to a hospital for disposal
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Compressed cylinders or aerosols (e.g., asthma inhalers)
  • Iodine-containing medications
  • Thermometers
  • Alcohol or illicit drugs (e.g., marijuana, heroin, LSD)

 

National Drug Take Back Day

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) started the National prescription drug Take-Back campaign back in 2010 to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of expired or unused prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. That year, people turned in about 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs at more than 4,000 take back sites. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) started the National prescription drug Take-Back campaign back in 2010 to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of expired or unused prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. The next Drug Take-Back Day is April 28.

The event has been hugely successful since that first year when people turned in about 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs at more than 4,000 take back sites. At the October 2017 event, over 912,000 pounds of expired or unused drugs were collected at more than 5,300 sites. To find a link to a take back location in your area, go to https://takebackday.dea.gov/

At the October 2017 event, over 912,000 pounds of expired or unused drugs were collected at more than 5,300 sites. To find a link to a take back location in your area, go to https://takebackday.dea.gov/

Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs began its Prescription Drug Take-Back Box Program in 2014. Since then, the program has established 584 permanent drug take-back boxes across the state. You can find one near you by entering your ZIP code at this link: https://apps.ddap.pa.gov/GetHelpNow/PillDrop.aspx or by calling.

So far, the program has collected and destroyed approximately 237,568 pounds of drugs. That’s nearly the weight of 21 Asian elephants!

You can add to that weight — and take a little weight off our communities — by participating in the Prescription Drug Take-Back Box Program. 

 

UPMC Locations

 UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy have partnered with local security forces and the Drug Enforcement Administration to host Drug Take-Back Day. Anyone can anonymously and at no cost turn in unused or expired drugs for proper disposal.  

Prescription, over-the-counter and non-prescription medications will be accepted. Needles, syringes, lancets, injectables and hazardous waste will not be accepted.

 

When & Where

Friday, April 27th, 2018

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
Outpatient Pharmacy Lobby

Falk Pharmacy
Falk Medical Building, 2nd Floor Lobby

Forbes Pharmacy of WPIC
Oxford Building, 3501 Forbes Avenue, 7th Floor

Hillman Cancer Center/ UPMC Shadyside
Ground Floor Atrium

Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC
Main Lobby, 1st Floor

UPMC East
Main Lobby

UPMC Hamot
Women’s Hospital Lobby

UPMC Mercy
Cafeteria, Second Floor

UPMC Mercy Southside
Main Lobby

UPMC McKeesport
1st Floor Crawford Entrance

UPMC Passavant
Main Lobby, McCandless Campus

UPMC Presbyterian
Prescription Shop, 1st Floor

U.S. Steel Tower (employees only)
MyHealth@Work, Floor 12

Forbes Tower (employees only)
Main Lobby

Sherwood Oaks (employees and residents only)
Main Lobby

UPMC Chautauqua WCA in Jamestown, N.Y.

  • Southside Pharmacy, 766 Foote Ave, Jamestown
  • Chautauqua Mall, JC Penney Parking Lot, Lakewood
  • Westfield Family Physician’s at 138 E. Main St, Westfield
  • ALSTAR Ambulance, 73 Monroe St, Dunkirk

 

Additional resources:

 

References:

  1. Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP):
  2. DDAP map: http://www.ddap.pa.gov/overdose/Documents/Drug_Take_Back_Location_Map.pdf
  3. Furlong, E. T., Batt, A. L., & Glassmeyer, S. T. (2017). Nationwide reconnaissance of contaminants of emerging concern in source and treated drinking waters of the United States: Pharmaceuticals. Science of the Total Environment, 579, 1629-1642. doi:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969716305551?via%3Dihub
  4. Asian Elephant. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/asian-elephant