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April 9 drug toss aims to prevent abuse, protect environment

by UofL Today last modified Apr 01, 2011 12:29 PM

Everyone has them: medications that have expired or no longer are necessary.

But how does one dispose of them?

Several community partners, including the University of Louisville and the Louisville Metro Police Department, are providing a safe and legal solution for drug disposal Saturday, April 9, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

Community members are invited to bring medications they no longer want or need (see guidelines below) to one of three drive-through locations: UofL’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, J.B. Atkinson Elementary Academy and First Gethsemane Baptist Church, for disposal by LMPD.

The standard advice used to be to flush old and unwanted medications down the toilet. Now, however, that method no longer is recommended because it sends the chemicals into the water system and trace amounts of drugs end up in public drinking water.

Besides the environmental impact of drug disposal, there are other reasons to let someone else do it for you. There also are reasons not to leave the medications in your home.

“Millions of Americans are abusing prescription drugs — including teens who find them in medicine cabinets. Children are becoming victims of accidental poisoning after ingesting medications,” said Richard Wilson, professor and chair in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science at UofL’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences.

Incinerating used and expired medications is the best option, Wilson said. To ensure it is done safely, people should bring their medication to a drug-toss event.

Taking unused medications to these events also can help reduce crime.

“When people throw unused medications in the trash, it gives criminals an opportunity to find them and illegally use or sell them,” said Sgt. John McGuire Jr., Louisville Metro Police Department, Prescription Drug Diversion Unit.

LMPD has collected and safely disposed of more than 7,500 medications since it began to have drug toss events in 2006.

This event will take place during National Public Health Week, underscoring the need for safe and legal disposal of unwanted or expired medications.

Other organizers include UofL’s Building Resiliency In Campus and Community (BRICC) Coalition, First Gethsemane Baptist Church, 7th Street Corridor PAL Coalition and Portland Now Prevention Partnership.

Drug toss guidelines:

  • Accepted items: Expired or unused medications, bulk or loose tablets and capsules, medications that should have been kept cold but weren't       
  • Not accepted: Used or unused sharps, hypodermic needles and lances
  • Place all tablets and capsules in a zip-lock bag immediately before bringing them to the drug toss because of the volume of drugs it will receive
  • Place vials into another bag / container
  • Place bottled liquids and tubes of medication into separate bags
  • No clinics, medical offices or pharmacies, please
  • Black out all personal information on all medication containers
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