Prescription drugs help people battle all kinds of illnesses and infections that range from minor to life-threatening. As a result, many homes are often stockpiled with medications that have gone unused or have expired. Leaving these medications around your home can be dangerous to others who may misuse or abuse them, and flushing them down the toilet or drain to dispose of them can be harmful to our environment and water supply.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration launched an effort several years ago to educate individuals on safer alternatives for prescription drug disposal. Part of that initiative is Drug Take-Back Day, which takes place on Saturday, April 28 this year. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Cheektowaga and Lancaster families are invited to bring their unused or expired prescription drugs to collection sites where they can be safely disposed of. This yearís sites are St. Joseph Hospital in Buffalo and the Twin District Fire Department in Lancaster.
While flushing unused medications down the toilet or drain may seem like the responsible way to dispose of unused medications, many water treatment plants arenít able to filter drugs from waste water, meaning that antibiotics, pain killers and the like can end up in our rivers and lakes.
When these drugs make it into our water supply, they have negative effects on fish and wildlife. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) found low levels of drugs including antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80 percent of the rivers and streams they tested.i Experts are worried that drug-resistant bacteria may develop because of long-term exposure to low levels of antibiotics. If these drugs are properly disposed of, these issues can be easily avoided.
Encouraging our community to dispose of unused medications in a responsible manner isnít the only way Iíve been combating prescription drug abuse. I am also a sponsor of I-STOP legislation (A.8320). This legislation would create an online, real-time reporting system that pharmacists and physicians would be required to use to search for, and report, certain data when a schedule II, III, IV and V controlled substance is issued or dispensed in an effort to identify and stop the over-prescription and abuse of these drugs.
Over the past decade, we have seen a dramatic increase in prescription drug abuse in the U.S. Almost 1.9 million people in the U.S. meet abuse or dependence criteria for prescription drugs.ii
Due to the way prescription drugs are sold Ė legally Ė they can easily fall into the wrong hands. Some teens, for example, believe that prescription medications are safer than many illegal drugs since they are prescribed by a doctor, but this misconception is dangerous Ė misusing drugs like Adderall, pain killers and sleeping aids can cause permanent damage to a person, or even death. Hereís another scary fact: It is estimated that each day, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time and 60 percent of youths who have used prescription pain relievers were under the age of 15 when they abused them the first time.iii These are just a few of the reasons why itís important to remove unused prescriptions from your home to keep them out of the hands of children and young adults.
For more information about this or any other important community issue, please contact my district office at 686-0080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.