This April the local Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Committee will be hosting a month long effort to properly locate and dispose of all outdated and unused medications in Carbon County. To do this the group has launched a media campaign aimed at dispersing information detailing the dangers these medications pose to the environment and the very lives of those in our community.
"We had eight deaths in the last year alone attributed to prescription medications, that's eight suspected suicides," said Southeastern Utah District Health Department representative Georgina Nowak. "And of those deaths, seven had documented substance abuse issues."
While death is the worst case scenario when dealing with medication issues, it is far from the only issue caused by improper storage and disposal practices.
"We cannot ignore the prescription medication and over-the-counter problems this community is encountering," said Four Corners Community Behavioral Health Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Kaylum Paletta. "Poisonings and death by over-dose is a reality we all need to be aware of. Many accidental over-doses can be prevented by disposing of your medications safely."
In the local area, safe disposal can be accomplished by dropping off any unwanted or unused medications at either the East Carbon City or Price Police Departments. They are hosting pharmaceutical drop off boxes which are picked up on a regular basis and safely disposed of by poison control officials.
"We need to clean out our medicine cabinets and protect those we love from gaining access to medication. Children can easily take a few pills out of the bottle and use them, sell them or give them away before family members even notice they are gone," explained Paletta. "It is also a safety risk to keep medications in your home. People have been known to break into homes, even when someone is home, looking to steal medication."
At the committees initial "media blitz," meeting last week, many in attendance including Price City Councilmember and committee chairperson Jeanne McEvoy marveled at all of the issues which have came forth from prescription misuse.
"We really would like everyone in attendance to stress the importance of knowledge when it comes to the correct handling of these substances," she said during the group session. "From suicide to addiction and issues with personal safety, it is imperative that the public is well informed about this whole issue including the potentially damage which can occur in the environment."
In the past, citizens were asked to flush unused medication down the toilet or sink. However, recent data has shown that many of these substances are incredibly damaging to the environment. For instance, many medications cannot be removed by sewer treatment plants or septic systems, therefore harmful pollutants find their way into ground water and river systems.
"The public has become very concerned about abuse and poisonings from unused prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs," said Leah Ann Lamb, an officials with the Division of Water Quality. "But we are very concerned about the impact to the environment and wildlife due to flushing medication. For that reason, this year's Earth Day focus will be medication take-back. "
According to Paletta, abuse of prescription drugs, particularly painkillers has increased locally among teenagers and young adults. More than half of those who report problems with abuse also report getting their drugs for free from friends or relatives.
To combat these issues, many locations throughout Utah will be hosting a "Drive Up - Drop Off" event during the month of April.
For those who would like to properly dispose of their medications, the Price Police drop off is located at 910 North 700 East and the East Carbon facility can be found at 101 East Geneva Drive. More information concerning a national misuse campaign can be found at useonlyasdirected.org.