Prescription drugs: Proper disposal Is essential |

Prescription drugs: Proper disposal Is essential

Stu Read
VAIL CO, Colorado

In the U.S., an estimated 250 million pounds of unused medications are improperly disposed of each year. Much of that ends up in the water system, abused by teens or accidentally digested by infants and pets.

The adverse effects of improper disposal are far and wide and affect us in many ways, including in our environment. A 2008 Associated Press Investigation discovered a wide array of pharmaceuticals detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas affecting at least 41 million Americans. The U.S. Geological survey’s 2002 report also showed that 80 percent of surface water samples taken nationwide contained one or more pharmaceutical or personal care compounds. Do you want your family drinking someone’s leftover prescriptions?

In addition to the environment, 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.

More and more consumers are disposing of unused medicines by flushing them down the drain, adding pharmaceutical pollution to our waters. In addition, medicines thrown in the trash can end up in landfills if not first picked up by children, pets, sanitation employees or anyone who rummages through trash.

So how should you dispose of unused medication?

A National Prescription Drug Take Back Day will take place on April 30 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 April 30 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.”

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 Contact Vail Police Detective Justin Dill at 970-479-2339 or visit

Stu Read is a pharmacist and director of outpatient pharmacy at Vail Valley Medical Center.

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