How many bottles of unwanted or expired prescription drugs do you have in your medicine cabinet? Are you like me, hesitant to flush them down the toilet for fear of contaminating underground water supplies?
If you live in Alameda County, and some other areas around the country, you have a solution. Alameda County just passed a policy requiring drug companies to take back unwanted drugs.
And the Drug Enforcement Administration runs National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days. Four events so far have removed 1.5 million pounds (774 tons) of medication from circulation. And another is scheduled for September 29. Click here to find a collection site near you.
How to Get Rid of the Percoset?
I personally dealt with this issue – in a pretty big way— when I discovered large quantities of Percoset and Vicodin, two controlled substances in my medicine cabinet after my late husband’s bout with kidney cancer.
Not wanting to dispose of the drugs in the toilet (for fear they would contaminate local waterways) or in the trash (where the drugs would linger in plastic bags on the sidewalk in front of my Upper East Side NYC coop where they could easily be slashed open), I was comforted to find that my neighborhood pharmacy would take them back. In doing so, they warned me that they didn’t have a formal take-back program; even if the drugs wound up in the pharmacy’s trash, I felt that the drugs might be more secure than if handled by my building, and at the very least I was making a statement of customer concern that could lead to action down the road.
Dispense Partial Prescriptions?
In thinking about this problem, I couldn’t help wonder if we might be able to solve it at least part-way. Why not require pharmacists to dispense a prescription for a controlled substance only half-way, giving the patient the right to pick up the remainder when it’s clear the drug will be used?
This might not work as well for drugs prescribed for chronic conditions. But think about all those time you or someone you know been sent home from surgery with a prescription for a painkiller that was, happily, used just once or twice. You get my point I’m sure.
What might be some other creative ideas for solving the drug disposal problem?