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A blog by your local public health experts

 

We invite your comments but will delete those with profanity, personal attacks, derogatory statements, ads or promotional material. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department does not provide personal medical advice; please contact your health care provider. 

Remove the Pusher in Your Medicine Cabinet

Environmental Health Specialist Troy Rowan
by Troy Rowan07/10/2018 12:41 p.m.
Updated: 07/10/2018

Worn out clothes with sentimental value or broken gadgets we plan to fix can be hard to toss out. Our spouses or significant others might not be too happy with the clutter, but our pack rat tendencies do no real harm. 

Unwanted medications in our medicine cabinets are a different story. 

The potential pusher, poisoner, and polluter in your medicine cabinet

 Prescription medications can be a good thing. They help us recover from illness, injury, and surgery. They also have the potential to do great harm. This is especially true for unwanted opioid painkillers, a target for people struggling with opioid addiction. 

In a 2015 survey, the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute found a majority of heroin users in Pierce County (57%) first got hooked on opioid medications like Percocet and OxyContin. They later switched to heroin, a cheaper and easier-to-get alternative. This trend also fuels the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Unwanted prescription medications pose other dangers. They create the risk of accidental poisoning, especially for children. They can harm our rivers, lakes, soil, and wildlife when flushed or thrown in the garbage.

Secure medicine return is an investment in our future

You now have more options to safely and securely get rid of unwanted medications. The secure medicine return program expanded in April with:

  • More kiosk drop-off locations at more places such as pharmacies, hospitals, and law enforcement sites. You can drop off unwanted medications at one of 23 kiosks. Expect to see more kiosks across the county in the coming months.
  • An option to send unused medicine by mail to a disposal site for free. This new convenience is for people who cannot make it to one of the kiosks.

Kiosks at police stations used to be your only option. Because you’re more likely to visit a pharmacy or hospital, it makes sense to add them so you can easily get rid of unwanted medications. And you don’t have to foot the bill. The pharmaceutical industry pays for the program.

Expanding the program statewide 

Our Board of Health understands the growing public health impacts of unwanted medications. In 2016, Board members passed a Secure Medicine Return Regulation—which led to the expanded program in the county. 

Our regulation and the regulations of other local health departments were the model for a new state law. We will transition to the state law in a year or two. This means even more Washingtonians will have an easier and safer alternative to dispose of unwanted medications instead of hoarding them.

Go ahead. Keep the faded sweatshirt from your alma mater. Keep the wonky coffee maker. But be sure to get rid of unwanted medications in your medicine cabinet. Find a secure medicine return drop off location nearest to you.

Environmental Health Specialist Troy Rowan

by Troy Rowan

Troy works to keep things that can harm your health out of our environment.