Unused prescription drugs have become a major public health issue. Each year about 6 million people misuse prescription drugs, including opioids, and most of these were taken from family and friends, often from a medicine cabinet.
Pharmacists can help with this problem by helping to educate patients, healthcare providers, and people in the community about the necessity of disposing of unused prescription drugs properly. Opioids and many other dangerous unused drugs are stolen from homes and misused. Disposing of these drugs can prevent this from happening, as well as the many poisonings that occur each year.
Getting Rid of the Drugs
Many people get rid of unused drugs by simply flushing them down the toilet or pouring them down the drain. But this is not a good way to dispose of them because it can be harmful to the environment. There is a better way. Many pharmacy chains offer much easier and more efficient ways of destroying the drugs, and pharmacists should help to educate the public about these methods.
A Better Way
There are now kits containing a drug-neutralizing powder that patients can buy and use at home. When combined with water, the powder essentially makes the drug unusable. The patient can then simply throw the drug out in the trash, which is much more environmentally friendly.
When people pour unused medication down the drain or the toilet, the drugs can enter the water supply. Testing done at 50 wastewater treatment plants found some 56 drugs in the water, including oxycodone, hypertension medication, and other over-the-counter drugs. Other tests on 25 drinking water treatment plants found, even with treating and filtering the water, traces of drugs such as carbamazapine, bupropion, cotinine, metoprolol, and lithium.
But newer, non-toxic ways of getting rid of unused drugs can prevent this damage to the environment. When patients have access to these newer methods, they will be less likely to keep unused medications around the house.
By informing patients about these various ways of disposing the drugs, pharmacists can help to stem the opioid epidemic, prevent poisonings, and help the environment.
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