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Summit County now has three locations for disposal of unused medications, helping to prevent substance abuse and protect waterways
Dillon Police Chief Mark Heminghous
Janet Carter, Owner and Pharmacist, Prescription Alternatives
Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons
Greg Fabisiak, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Household Medication Take-Back Program
SUMMIT COUNTY – Residents and visitors now have more options for safely disposing of unused, unwanted and expired medications. New, secure collection bins at Dillon Police Department and Prescription Alternatives in Frisco are available to help community members prevent substance abuse and protect local ecosystems.
“Across the country, we’re seeing a real epidemic of prescription drug addiction, and Summit County is not immune,” Dillon Police Chief Mark Heminghous said. “Prompt, proper disposal of unused medications is a key prevention strategy.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, and so have sales of these medications. At least half of all U.S. opioid deaths involve a prescription opioid. In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids, and past misuse of prescription opioids is the strongest risk factor for starting heroin use.
The two new drop-off boxes, which supplement an existing secure bin in the lobby of the Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge, are the result of collaborative efforts by Dillon Police Department, Prescription Alternatives, Healthy Futures Initiative, Summit County Public Health, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, High Country Conservation Center, Summit Water Quality Committee and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
About six months ago, local City Market pharmacies removed their medication-collection receptacles (which did not accept narcotics) from service, leaving only one drop-off location, at the Justice Center, managed by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. Partner organizations convened to establish new locations so residents throughout Summit County would have better access to the service. The two new receptacles are provided by CDPHE, through the Colorado Household Medication Take-Back Program.
“We’re excited to help in this effort to provide an easy, convenient way to get rid of unused medications, including narcotics,” said Prescription Alternatives owner and pharmacist Janet Carter. “It’s the best available strategy to keep these substances from polluting our environment, and it reduces the likelihood that they’ll be misused.”
To use any of the three drop-off locations in Summit County, residents should leave medications in their original containers and mark out all personal information. Accepted items include prescription medication, prescribed controlled substances, over-the-counter medication, medication samples, liquid medications (small volumes in original, non-leaking containers), medicated ointments and lotions, vitamins and pet medications.
If you have very large quantities of medications in your home in need of disposal, put all pills in one zip-top bag, seal it tightly and drop the bag into the collection receptacle. Trash or recycle the empty pill containers after you remove or scratch out personal information. If the medications have other packaging that can be easily removed, such as cardboard boxes, dispose of such packaging separately.
Items not accepted include Schedule I controlled substances (e.g., marijuana products, heroin, LSD), bloody or infectious waste, personal care products, hydrogen peroxide, aerosol cans, thermometers, IV bags, chemotherapy medication, needles and other sharps, empty containers and business waste. However, Summit County Public Health maintains a sharps-collection box at the Summit County Justice Center for safe needle disposal.
Substances collected in the drop-off boxes are destroyed. All three locations are secure and under constant monitoring and/or surveillance. The Prescription Alternatives and Dillon PD boxes are available during regular business hours. The box managed by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office is available 24-7, but participating residents are encouraged to use it during regular business hours if possible.
Pharmaceuticals that sit unused in home medicine cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Their easy availability can also result in accidental poisonings and overdoses. After marijuana and alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Almost 224,000 Coloradans misuse prescription drugs each year, and 29 percent of Coloradans have used pain medication prescribed for someone else, according to the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. Each year, painkiller overdoses result in about 300 deaths in Colorado.
Substance abuse is not the only concern related to unused prescription drugs. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, certain drugs may cause ecological harm, and some drugs may end up in drinking water sources when disposed of improperly. Trace amounts of drugs can impact fish reproduction and contribute to antibiotic resistance, according to EPA.
Prescription and over-the-counter medications can pass through treatment systems in wastewater treatment plants and end up in lakes and streams. In homes that use onsite wastewater treatment systems (septic tanks), pharmaceuticals can leach into the ground and seep into ground water. For these reasons, unused prescription drugs should not be flushed down toilets or sent down drains, unless the label specifically instructs you to do so.
For more information on proper disposal of medications, visit www.highcountryconservation.org/waste-reduction/recycling-faqs/pharmaceutical-take-back and www.takemedsback.org.