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Old medications pose new problems

Proper disposal considered key

September 21, 2010
By CHRISTOPHER DIEM Journal Staff Writer

This Saturday, Upper Peninsula residents will be able to safely dispose of expired, unwanted or unused medications.

As part of National Take-Back Day, people can drop off pharmaceutical controlled substances and other medication at various law enforcement agencies in the area.

"A lot of people aren't aware that a lot of people are stealing prescription meds from medicine cabinets. That's where a lot of people are reporting getting medications that they're using illegally," said Sarah Derwin, a health educator with the Marquette County Health Department. "A lot of people will hold onto old prescriptions or partially used prescriptions so this is a wonderful program to take an inventory of what you have and we'll collect it and we'll dispose of it properly."

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Collection points in the central U.P. include the Marquette Police Department in Marquette, the Forsyth Township Police Department in Gwinn, the Schoolcraft County Sheriff's Department in Manistique and all Michigan State Police posts, including Negaunee, Newberry, St. Ignace, Manistique, Gladstone, Iron Mountain, Wakefield, L'Anse, Stephenson, Calumet Munising, Iron River and Sault Ste. Marie.

Derwin said there are significant health risks with using old medication or medication that is prescribed for someone else.

"Well with old medicine it can lose its effectiveness," she said. "Sometimes people will keep an antibiotic for three or four years and then give it to a family member. It can be really hazardous if somebody doesn't know their medical history and they take something that could clash with other medications they're taking, or if its strong you're not supposed to use it with alcohol, or while driving."

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"A lot of people will hold onto old prescriptions or partially used prescriptions so this is a wonderful program to take an inventory of what you have and we'll collect it and we'll dispose of it properly."

- Sarah Derwin, health educator, Marquette County Health Department

According to a survey by the Great Lakes Center for Youth Development, in 2008 14 percent of youths in Marquette and Alger counties took prescription medication to get high.

"I've talked to all our police departments in our county and they do rate prescription drug abuse right now as a big problem," Derwin said.

The program is anonymous with no questions asked. While prescriptions and over-the-counter tablets and capsules will be accepted, intravenous solutions, injectibles and needles will not be. Illicit substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine are not part of the program.

"When folks go to drop off they can just dump their pills. They don't have to use the bottle or anything. They can bring them in a baggie and just dump them all off and the police departments will be ready and expecting people," Derwin said.

The Superior Watershed Partnership in Marquette has been trying to keep unwanted or unused pharmaceuticals out of the area's rivers and lakes for years.

In 2007, the SWP held a collection of unwanted pharmaceuticals and collected over 2,000 pounds in one day.

"The reason I'm excited is it's finally happening at the federal level, that they're stepping in to address this problem which is often lumped into the category of emerging environmental issues," said Carl Lindquist, director of the SWP. "We hope we've made a change in raising awareness about how to dispose of them but it used to be people were dumping them down the drain or down the toilet which is probably the worst thing you can do because it's not treated at the Marquette Area Wastewater Treatment Facility. It's not good for water quality."

Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His e-mail address is cdiem@miningjournal.net

 
 

 

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