Properly dispose of old, unwanted medications

ALTON — The 2023 resolution could be cleaning out the medicine cabinet. Along with that comes a piece of advice you’ve heard a lot.

Do not throw old or unwanted medicines down the toilet. It can end up in the water supply and harm plants and animals.

Do not throw the pills in the trash either. It just adds to the landfill.

But Corey Bates, manager of pharmacy operations at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Health Center in Alton, Illinois, says there are bigger ramifications that you can’t just ignore.

“Many times we have read reports of people taking medicine from their parent’s medicine box. They go to a party and everyone pours a bottle into a bowl. During the party, everyone just brings out what they want to have fun with.

“It’s one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever heard of in my life,” Bates says. “Just because it’s in your medicine box doesn’t mean it’s an opioid or anything that’s going to make you feel better.” It could stop your heart.”

Bates and others who are passionate about reducing drug abuse remind you of the options to get rid of drugs safely – each with its own dosage and illicit use.

Several OSF HealthCare facilities — including the Alton hospital where Bates works — have drop boxes at the entrance. Here’s what you need to know about that option.

The boxes are available 24/7 and within a few steps of where you can temporarily park your car. They’re attached to the concrete floor, which means they’re not going anywhere. Once items are placed inside, only authorized OSF mission partners (employees) like Bates can open them. This happens when at least two mission partners are present, so there is no risk of anyone taking any of the delayed drugs.

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“It’s like a mailbox,” Bates says. “You pull the lever. There is an open door. You fall [the drugs] in the box. You push the lever back. [The drugs] go to the safe box under the hatch. No one can reach him. No one can throw up [the drugs].”

There is no charge for item disposal.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications can be left behind.

When possible, store the pills in the wrapper, such as the plastic bag or bottle they came in.

Items accepted: pills, capsules, tablets, powders, sealed insulin vials, vitamins, ointments and patches.

Listed without: needles or other sharp objects, inhalers, aerosol cans, thermometers, lotions, liquids (including bags and tubes), and hydrogen peroxide. The reasons are obvious, says Bates. Needles and hydrogen peroxide can harm the person emptying the box. Inhalers, aerosols and thermometers can explode when the items are destroyed. Lotions and liquids can leave a smelly or sticky mess.

Pet medicine can also be left as long as it is within the guidelines.

When it comes to illegal drugs, Bates recommends that the police be your first point of contact. But for others you send to the inbox, there is no privacy concern.

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“If you want to take a black marker and mark your name, that’s perfectly fine. Or try taking the labels off the recipes, and that’s fine,” says Bates. “But no one looks at any labels. We just close the top of the box, tape it shut and contact our company.”

Once the compartment is full, OSF mission partners safely send the contents to an outside company that destroys the drugs by incinerating them.

Clearly, the OSF boxes are having the desired effect.

Missy Herzberg of Rosewood Heights is a patient at the OSF Moeller Cancer Center on the OSF Saint Anthony’s campus. As part of her communications course at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Herzberg is producing a public service announcement (PSA) about the lecturers at OSF Saint Anthony’s and the overall importance of the issue. She recently spent time at the hospital filming a video of people using the litter box with their permission.

“I really thought about what the PSA would be good for.” “I didn’t want to do something that everyone else was doing, like texting and driving,” Herzberg says. “I actually opened my cabinet and saw an expired bottle of medicine, and that gave me an idea.

“It’s important for everyone to show people that there is a place to put their medicine,” adds Herzberg.

Another option for delaying the drug is the national drug for days back. The events are an initiative of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and are held every few months, with the next one taking place on October 29. The DEA partners with local groups, such as Crime Stoppers, to offer unwanted drug drop-off events. Depending on the event, other subjects may be accepted. This can include old cell phones and financial documents that will be shredded to prevent identity theft.

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Your local pharmacy or public health department may have medication return options. You can search the DEA website for these locations. Bates says pharmacies can sell hard plastic boxes that allow you to dispose of needles — an option that may not be offered elsewhere.

“Some people even make their own.” [needle boxes]”, says Bates. “They find a hard plastic container like the one your dishwashing containers are in.” It is very difficult. Nothing can break into it. Seal it with duct tape and it’s safe to throw away.”

The bottom line, Bates says: Don’t stick with drugs that are no longer useful.

“Sometimes people don’t use all their medicine because they want to have some left over in case they get sick again.” That’s not really a good plan.

“Most of the drugs you get are for a period of time, especially for infections,” says Bates. “The doctor wants you to take it for seven or 10 days.” And you feel better on the fifth day and decide to keep a few in case it comes back. If it comes back, you’ll likely have another course of seven to 10 days.


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