NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Drug Take-Back Day reminder to dispose of unused meds

Saturday was National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day when cities across the country provided sites for no-questions-asked disposal of prescription drugs people may have in their homes, including opioids. But for those who missed the event in Allen County, held at the Indiana State Police post on Ellison Road, there are plenty of other places in the area to get rid of unused medications every day.

Take-Back Days have been scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Agency since 2010 each April and October.

Why is this important? Keeping medications out of sight and regularly disposing of unused or expired drugs will reduce risks for people of all ages. But many of us neglect or forget to dispose of medications we have in our homes that are long beyond their usefulness and expiration date.

A DEA National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2016 revealed that 6.2 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. It also showed that most of the abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. A 2017 survey by Consumer Reports found that about one-third of Americans failed to clean out their medicine cabinet in the previous year, while about a fifth had not done so in the previous three years.

The DEA reports that at the last Take-Back Day in October more than 5,800 sites across the nation collected unwanted or expired medications totaling more than 457 tons. The total of prescription drugs it collected since the program began in the fall of 2010 has been 5,439.5 tons.

With opioid abuse at epidemic levels in the U.S., the DEA wants consumers to dispose of expired, unwanted or unused medicines to help prevent overdoses (whether accidental or intentional) or illegal abuse.

Besides the National Take-Back Day, there are other drop-off opportunities for disposing of unwanted drugs. Three Walgreens stores in Fort Wayne (6202 W. Jefferson Blvd., 6201 Stellhorn Road and 10412 Coldwater Road) are among 1,300 nationwide that have disposal kiosks that are available every day.

Meijer this year launched its own Consumer Drug Take-Back Program in all 241 superstores across the Midwest by installing kiosks to accept prescription and over-the-counter drugs. More than 4 tons of unwanted and potentially hazardous drugs have been collected through the program since its inception two months ago. In Fort Wayne, those stores are located at 6309 Lima Rd., 10301 Ind. 37 and 5909 Illinois Rd.

While the DEA recommends take-back options as the safest means for disposal of unused medications, it concedes that there are two other ways to dispose of medicine, depending on the drug: flushing them down the toilet or disposing of them in the household trash.

Almost all medicines can be thrown in the trash, according to the Federal Drug Administration, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs in pills, liquids, drops, patches, creams and inhalers. However, some medicines that could be especially harmful to others, may have specific directions to immediately flush them down the sink or toilet when they are no longer needed. Consumers should check the medication’s label or patient information leaflet to find out for sure. The DEA and FDA warn, too, that disposal of drugs in landfills or sewers and septic systems could potentially affect our water and soil.

Drug addiction and overdose is a problem we can all help prevent by being responsible with the prescriptions we obtain. Not only is it our responsibility as consumers to police ourselves in disposing of unused drugs, physicians and pharmacists should regularly remind their patients to do so.

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