How to get rid of expired prescriptions |

How to get rid of expired prescriptions

Improper disposal of medications can have repercussions for health and the environment.
Will Grandbois / Post Independent |

Where to dispose of your expired medication

Glenwood Springs Police Department, 101 W 8th Street: 24/7

Colorado River Fire Rescue, 1850 Railroad Ave, Rifle: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. September 20.

Grand River Primary Care, 501 Airport Rd, Rifle: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. the second Wednesday of every month.

If you haven’t cleaned out your medicine cabinet in a while, resist the temptation to throw out or flush your old prescriptions. Garfield County has several resources to properly dispose of old of medication as part of nationwide efforts to protect human and environmental health.

The most consistent option is the Glenwood Springs Police Department’s 24-hour drop box just outside the station at 101 W. 8th St., which accepts everything but liquids. Police try to keep a Sharpie on hand so folks can black out their private information.

More than 100 pounds of medicine have been dropped off at the box each year since its installation in 2010, to be picked up by the Drug Enforcement Agency and ultimately incinerated.At the last major takeback in April, the DEA accepted 390 tons of material nationwide, 15 tons of which came from the Denver district of Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.

“This gives people a good opportunity to get rid of them in a safe and ecological way,” said Glenwood Police Chief Terry Wilson. “We think it beats the heck out of the old dump it in the toilet and flush it.”

Historically, flushing pills was the preferred alternative to keeping them on the shelf – where they may present a danger to kids or pets – or throwing them in the trash – where they may end up in the hands of addicts or sold on the black market. In recent years, however, chemicals including ibuprofen, estrogen and caffeine have been detected in nearly every body of water. Some of the contamination comes from human waste, which is hard to avoid even with modern waste treatment, but a significant percentage comes from flushing medication.

“I can’t speak highly enough about the importance of drug takeback,” said Rick Lofaro, executive director of the Roaring Fork Conservancy. “There are so many chemicals and compounds in pharmaceuticals that we don’t have the technology within our water quality sampling to test for them all.”

“The disposal of pharmaceuticals has become a real concern for the environment,” agreed Mike Kyler, Pharmacy Director for Grand River Health. “I bet if you went to any house in the community, people have prescriptions in their cabinet that they no longer take and they don’t know what to do with them.”

Grand River accepts some drugs, but not controlled substances, from 9-11 a.m. the second Wednesday of every month at its primary care clinic. On Sept. 20, the health system is teaming up with law enforcement for a comprehensive takeback at the Colorado River Fire Rescue Open House, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kylder cautioned against just letting medicine just collect on a shelf, because they break down over time. In most cases, that just makes them less effective, but some can actually become toxic.

As for antibiotics, you shouldn’t have any left anyway. Although you may feel better part way through the bottle, not taking the whole prescription increases the chance of a relapse and can lead to antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.

“If you don’t finish that course of therapy, you’re giving those bacteria an opportunity to become resistant,” Kyler said. “You may think you don’t need it anymore, but you need to finish the whole course.”

Grand River holds itself to the same standards it asks from the community.

“We do not flush anything,” said Kyler. “We all drink out of the same river, essentially. We really feel that it’s an obligation that we have to the community to give them the ability to do the right thing.”

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