Effects of Former Medication Disposal
Historically, when people wanted to get rid of unused or expired prescription medications, they would use various means such as flushing them down a toilet, washing them down the drain, or throwing them in the garbage. These methods, however, can prove to be detrimental for many reasons. For example, the chemical compounds found in various medications can prove to be harmful in that concentrations of these substances can taint water sources. So if the medications are flushed down the toilet or washed down a sink drain, they will inevitably affect the nearby water source. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection notes that, although the amount of chemicals that have been found in the water bodies are significantly lower than the actual dosages contained in medications that are being disposed, they can still have negative effects on aquatic life. This is not only true for Fort Myers and its surrounding communities, but also throughout the nation as a whole.
Additionally, when individuals throw their medications away in the garbage, they are potentially making them available to drug-seekers. While it may seem unlikely to some, there are drug addicts who seek out substances by any means possible – including searching through garbage. Therefore, when individuals toss out their old medications, drug-seekers may find them, consume them, and experience any number of negative effects as a result, including an overdose.
Similarly, should medications be thrown away, there is always the possibility that they could fall out when being transferred from a garbage can to a garbage truck. Again, although this may seem unlikely, it is unfortunately a possibility. In the event that this happens, children and adolescents are at risk for finding them and consuming them without knowing what the possible repercussions can be.
Proper Disposal of Medications
In order to prevent negative ramifications from occurring after disposing of medications, there are certain protocols that individuals should follow.
If an individual desires to throw away their old medications, they must first properly prepare the medications for disposal. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection provides a list of guidelines to follow, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Ensure that medications remain in their original containers so that the contents can be identified if they are ingested. Mark out any personal identifying information that may be listed on the container.
- Medications in pill form should first be dissolved in water or soda.
- An inedible substance should be added to liquid medications, such as dirt or cat litter.
- Secure any containers containing medications with packing tape or duct tape.
- Make every effort to hide the container in the trash, placing it inside another type of container if possible.
However, a safer way to dispose of one’s medications is by taking them to a certified disposal site. Federal regulations now allow both hospitals and pharmacies to provide collection programs, but the availability of such will vary. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also holds annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days to, as noted by the U.S. Department of Justice, “provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.”
For individuals in Lee County, the following locations are available for properly disposing of unused, unwanted, or expired prescription and over-the-counter medications:
North District Sheriff’s Office
121 Pondella Road
North Fort Myers, FL 33903
East District Sheriff’s Office
1301 Homestead Road
Lehigh Acres, FL 33936
West District Sheriff’s Office
15650 Pine Ridge Road
Fort Myers, FL 33908
South District Sheriff’s Office
8951 Bonita Beach Road
Springs Plaza, Suite 565
Bonita Springs, FL 34135
Central District Sheriff’s Office
14750 Six Mile Cypress Parkway
Fort Myers, FL 33912
By bringing awareness to proper means of medication disposal, addiction professionals at treatment centers in Fort Myers and its surrounding areas hope that it will help to reduce the negative stigma that often surrounds prescription medication abuse. By bringing it to the forefront of news, individuals can feel less intimidated about coming forward not only with their medications, but also with any struggles they may have with abusing those medications. These programs can provide a safe outlet to dispose of their substances of abuse while also allowing them to inquire about help for themselves or their loved ones.