Is your medicine cabinet bursting at the seams? Bring unused meds to Living Lightly!

Trying to figure out what to do with that leftover pain-killer from your knee surgery two years ago? Holding on to that five-year-old bottle of unused antibiotics, in case your sinus infection kicks in again?

Pharmaceutical disposal is one of the latest hot-button topics in environmental discussions. Most people think they know what not to do with expired medicines, but few know what should be done with them.

The issue is further complicated by the many different types of medicines and personal medical devices out there that need careful handling and disposal.

When your doctor prescribes an antibiotic and tells you to take all the pills, do you always follow instructions? Or what if you have a reaction to one medicine, so your doctor prescribes another drug? And what about medications left over from your pet’s illness?

You already know the hazards of keeping controlled substances in your house. According to the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force (www.bitterpill.in.gov), more people die from prescription drug overdoses than from cocaine, heroin and inhalants combined. Talk about scary!

And those statistics don’t include over-the-counter drugs that may be sitting in your medicine cabinet – ibuprofen that has expired or cough syrup that you bought in the wrong flavor. Whatever the reason, you probably have some medicines that you want to get rid of but aren’t sure how to do it.

Not too long ago, the common solution was to pour unused or unwanted meds down the drain or flush them down the toilet, but we now know that is not the right disposal method. Our water treatment systems weren’t designed to filter out pharmaceuticals, which slip right through the system and end up in our waterways and drinking water. Many studies have linked increased levels of resistance to antibiotics in humans to residual medications that have been dumped or flushed.

Citizens were also commonly told to dispose of expired medications in the trash, preferably mixing them with something undesirable, such as used cat litter. Unfortunately, though, you’ve probably heard stories of discarded medications getting in to the wrong hands, leading to overdoses and sometimes even death.

So what can we do?

Thankfully, some of our local communities have worked with the Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to organize local drug take-back programs. In Delaware County, as well as many other Indiana counties, Triad groups have been hosting such programs for years.

Triad is a nationwide not-for-profit coalition that brings together the needs and resources of senior citizens, law enforcement agencies and community groups. Twenty-four Indiana counties, including several ECI counties, have Triads.

Like many Triads, the one in Delaware County runs an EEDE (Eliminate Expired Drugs Environmentally) program, often known as the “Drug Drop” program.

Twice a year, at pre-announced locations on specified dates, Triad works with the county sheriff’s office and Muncie Sanitary District to collect expired or unused medications, as well as needles and other “sharps,” then dispose of them properly.

Since the spring of 2005, Delaware County’s Triad, under the leadership of president Scott Cooper, has collected and incinerated 23,000 pounds of medications, so that none of them end up in our waterways or are misused by others.

Triad’s next collection will be at the Living Lightly Fair, on September 17. All you have to do is bring your old or unwanted medications – whether prescription or non-prescription, whether tablets, capsules, or liquids – and bring them to the Fair. When possible, bring them in their original containers.

Triad’s booth and collection container will be located in the Green Marketplace tents, where more than 50 vendors and exhibitors will be sharing news and information about the good work they do to help make our community healthier, more environmentally-friendly and more sustainable for future generations.

Thanks to Triad, it couldn’t be any easier to make your home and your drinking water safer. So go ahead and clean out your medicine cabinet, with the help of Triad and Living Lightly!

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