In the U.S., an estimated 250 million pounds of unused medications are improperly disposed of each year. These drugs can be abused by teens, accidentally digested by infants and pets and end up in our landfills and waste water streams.
In addition to the adverse environment impacts, leaving unused medications around the house can lead to experimentation and abuse by teens and adults. The Partnership for A Drug-Free America reports that every day there are 2,500 teenagers using a prescription medication to get high for the first time. With the exception of marijuana, teens are abusing prescription medications more than any illicit drug. Another study conducted by the Office of National Drug Control found that prescription drugs are the drug of choice among 12- and 13-year olds, while a third of all new abusers of prescription drugs were between the ages of 12 and 17.
Another problem of unused prescription medication in households is they contribute to the more than 20,000 unintentional poisonings annually in the U.S. Accidental ingestion by children, elderly and pets occur often and can be prevented with proper precaution.
So how should you dispose of unused medication?
A National Prescription Drug Take Back Day will take place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the following locations: Vail Municipal Building in Vail, Battle Mountain High School in Edwards and Columbine Market in Gypsum. At this time local law enforcement will collect all drugs, including controlled substances like Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin as well as all vitamins, over the counter and prescription medicines to safely dispose.
Those unable to make the event can visit Vail Valley Medical Center pharmacies in the hospital and at the Edwards Pavilion as they will accept unused and expired medications (prescription and over-the-counter medicines, but not narcotics, IV bags or needles) free of charge by bringing the drugs in their original stock containers and placing them in the "take back bins."
Additional locations to properly dispose include Eagle County's Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Wolcott which accepts all non-DEA controlled substances during regular business hours and the Eagle County Sheriff's Office "drop-box", which is located inside their main office in Eagle (885 East Chambers Avenue) and is available to dispose of drugs Monday - Friday during regular business hours.
Drugs collected are either incinerated or taken by a federally licensed hazardous waste disposal company that picks up regularly from VVMC facilities.
For more information on proper disposal, contact Vail Police at 970-479-2339 or visit www.pharmacyvail.com.
Stuart Read is a pharmacist and director of outpatient and inpatient pharmacy at Vail Valley Medical Center. Email comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.