Dispose of your prescription medication

Published 10:05 am Saturday, November 13, 2010

What really happens to medications that you no longer use? Do they remain in your medicine cabinet, your purse, office drawer, or do you flush them down the toilet?

There has been a lot of news coverage about the growing concerns nationwide regarding proper disposal of prescription drug medications. If you’ve been fortunate enough to hear a presentation by local Environmental Services Director Randy Tuchtenhagen, you’ve been instructed to dispose of prescription medication by crushing the pills, mixing them with an undesirable substance such as cat litter or coffee, placing them in a plastic bag and then wrapping everything up in duct tape to place in the trash.

Ann Austin, Live United

The local Drug Education Task Force has been working to educate the community about how to best store and dispose of prescription medication. The Move, Watch, Dispose campaign began over a year ago with cards that were distributed through local pharmacies. We have continued to encourage other choices in our youth by offering speakers who can give unique perspectives on how certain life choices can alter one’s course dramatically.

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Recently the Task Force hosted speakers who had recently graduated from the Teen Challenge program in the Twin Cities. They presented a program called “Know the Truth” where they relayed stories of how they first started using drugs and how the choices they made from that point on lead to felony drug charges.

The drugs they chose to use were marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin — these drugs are highly addictive and will take over one’s life by causing great physical, mental and emotional harm that can take many years to recover from. The difference between these illegal drugs and prescription medication is the prescriptions are far more accessible and often one does not know the effect that taking these medications will have.

Youth who have chosen to try prescription medication at a party or on their own have found themselves in serious medical conditions and many have died suddenly from mixing prescriptions with other drugs or with alcohol.

A recent “Reader’s Digest” magazine (Dec./Jan.) featured two college girls who chose to try prescription medications one night. Both died suddenly from respiratory failure. According to the article, opioid painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone now cause more lethal overdoses than heroin and cocaine put together (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In addition, the rate of fatal overdose among 15- to 24- year olds has spiked 300 percent in recent years.

Though there has been increased education and concern about prescription medication, we recognize that the abuse will continue. Not everyone is aware of how to prevent kids from having access to medications or the consequences of using medications that have not been prescribed.

The most effective means of quelling use of prescription drugs is to ensure people aren’t able to acquire them in the first place.

Freeborn County organizations have combined efforts to offer a Prescription Take Back Day for unused prescription medications. The day is set for Saturday, Nov. 27, and the collection site will be located at the City Parking Lot on the corner of Newton and College in Albert Lea. Organizers ask people to please stay in their cars as it will be a drive-through collection.

We ask you to check your house for any prescriptions that are expired or that you aren’t using. If you have older parents or grandparents, please help them go through their medications as well. Do not flush your medications and if you have any medications you are still using, please move them out of obvious areas such as your medicine cabinet. By following these suggestions, we can avoid dangerous and life-threatening situations for our youth.

Ann Austin is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.