Proper drug disposal keeps kids, environment safe
One in four teens will abuse prescription drugs. That’s according to a 2013 survey by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the Metlife Foundation. The rate has climbed 33 percent in the last five years, making the home medicine cabinet a first foray into drug abuse for some youth.
If everyone in the community took responsibility for properly disposing of their leftover meds, said Eagle River woman Janine Walters, it could prevent kids from starting a damaging habit.
“Teenagers usually get their first high from the medicine cabinet,” she said. “It’s easily accessible.”
Walters and her daughter, JoEllen, have been volunteering with the Alaska Safe Medicine Alliance since 2010. The alliance includes drug-prevention, senior advocacy and criminal justice groups, Walters said.
The alliance partners with the Drug Enforcement Agency to host “Drug Take Back Events,” to which people can take their leftover prescription drugs and have them safely disposed of, and promotes public awareness of proper prescription disposal.
“I think people think there’s a garbage can, and anything that fits in there should go in there,” Walters said. “Yes the pills fit in there. But ecologically it’s not a good thing for the environment to throw it in the garbage or the toilet or the sink.”
Hormones that get into the water supply can disrupt the reproduction of a variety of species, and antibiotics pollution can help breed “super bugs,” or drug-resistant bacteria, according to Environmental Protection Agency. A 2013 survey of prescription drug contamination in American water tables found higher-than expected levels, but it dovetailed with a report from the Mayo clinic of the same year that found nearly 70 percent of all American adults take at least one prescription drug, up from just under 50 percent during the 2007-2008 sample period.
Walters said the prescription drugs at the “Take Back” events are safely delivered by the DEA to a local incinerator and industrial waste processor. She hopes the alliance can work with the DEA to help host events more frequently in the future.
“We’re trying to solve some of these issues, of where do we go and how do we get rid of this as quickly as possible,” Walters said.
Eagle River Fred Meyers and Abbot Loop Fred Meyers host Drug Take Back Events on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.