According to the CDC, more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States between May 2019 and May 2020. This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, and, while overdose deaths were already increasing in the months preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest numbers suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.
Prescription Drug Disposal
Prescription drug abuse and disposal are both a public and environmental health threat. According to the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, rates of drug overdose deaths in rural areas were surpassing the rates in urban areas.
Improper disposal of medications, whether via sewers or landfills, leads to surface water contamination. Flushing unused prescriptions down the drain or crushing them and combining with kitty litter or other inedible substances before putting them in the garbage prevents substance abuse, but returning them to a pharmacy or bringing them to law enforcement is the only method that reliably keeps these substances from entering the water supply.
The best way to dispose of most types of unused or expired medicines (both prescription and over the counter) is to drop off the medicine at a drug take back site, location, or program immediately.
Sharps is a medical term for devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. They may be used at home, at work, and while traveling to manage the medical conditions of people or their pets, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, and psoriasis.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, “The improper disposal of medical sharps may present serious safety and public health risks, especially to solid waste and recycling workers. Any person who is accidentally stuck should undergo medical testing due to concerns about exposure to harmful or deadly diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV."
How We Can Help
Do you want to learn more or request someone speak to your community group about the importance of safe drug disposal as a way to prevent drug abuse and keep toxics out of our landfills? With funding from the USDA, the Pollution Prevention Institute (PPI) is able to offer education and outreach sessions to various communities in Kansas and Missouri, with a focus on these counties:
Kansas: Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Brown, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Coffey, Doniphan, Elk, Greenwood, Labette, Montgomery, Wilson, Woodson
Missouri: Atchison, Barton, Bates, Cedar, Dade, Gentry, Harrison, Hickory, Holt, Nodaway, St Clair, Vernon, Worth
PPI can provide your rural community access to safe drug and sharps disposal options. For more information, email Abigail Crouse or call 800-578-8898.
Prescription Drug Disposal
- DEA Controlled Substance Dropoff Locations
- Guidelines for household disposal of medicines (EPA)
- Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know (FDA)
- Kansas Medication Collection and Disposal Program
- DEA Drug Takeback Day
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Prevention opioid abuse and addiction