Save the Earth by properly disposing medications

By the Central Michigan District Health Department

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Proper disposal of prescription drugs and medications is crucial. Adolescents and the environment are potentially at risk, and law enforcement and pharmacies have disposal programs for unused medications.

Proper disposal of unused or unwanted prescriptions and medicines is a key weapon in the battle against misuse and environmental contamination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the number of emergency department visits due to misuse or abuse of prescription drugs has risen 98.4 percent since 2004. The Office of National Drug Control Policy indicates that more than three in five teens say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parent’s medicine cabinet. According to the website, among 12 to 13-year-olds that abuse drugs, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused.

In consideration to the environment, a study by the United States Geological Survey concluded that 80 percent of streams that were sampled contained compounds that are found in common medicines because waste water treatment facilities are not equipped to remove or process many compounds found in medications and they end up being discharged into our surface and ground water. Even if you live in a rural area and drink from a well, you may not be immune to the problem. Your drinking water may be affected as it has been determined that many medications including antibiotics, can destroy beneficial bacteria necessary for a septic system to operate properly. The Great Lakes contain over 95 percent of all surface freshwater in the United States. In Michigan we should be leading the fight to keep our water safe and drug-free.

April 26 is National Take Back Day, coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Agency. This is an opportunity for residents to take unused, unneeded and expired medicines to local, participating law enforcement agencies to properly dispose of medicines. In the previous seven Take Back events, the DEA, in partnership with our state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners, have collected more than 3.4 million pounds - or 1,733 tons - and removed them from circulation where they are then disposed of properly.

In central Michigan, the CMDHD has permanent prescription drug drop locations at participating law enforcement agencies. To find out more about the efforts to take back medicines or to find local disposal site, visit

Individuals also may find a local Yellow Jug Old Drugs program with participating pharmacies. The Yellow Jug Old Drugs program partners with pharmacies in many communities in Michigan to collect unused or unwanted and expired drugs. A list of participating pharmacies can be found at The Yellow Jug Old Drugs program can accept many unused, unwanted and expired medicines. The Yellow Jug Old Drugs Program is now available state-wide.

Residents should remember that it is not environmentally friendly to flush medicines, unless the directions say otherwise. Remove any personal, identifiable information from prescription bottles or packages before throwing them away. Mix medicines with something objectionable like used coffee grounds or kitty litter and put them in a waterproof container before putting them in the garbage.