[Sqg-program] Drug Free Collier take back events article

Perrigan, Glen Glen.Perrigan at dep.state.fl.us
Wed Apr 8 09:20:44 EDT 2009

From: Tenace, Laurie 
Sent: Friday, April 03, 2009 9:56 AM
To: pharmwaste at lists.dep.state.fl.us
Subject: [Pharmwaste] Drug Free Collier take back events article

This is a Florida program that really relies on their local sheriff's
department and juvenile justice - going from a drug diversion point of view
has helped them find funding and support.


What you don't know could hurt you ... or your kids 

April 3, 2009

Gloria Brosious, 71, no longer needs her cholesterol medicine, so she's
trying to donate hundreds of leftover packets to Mote Marine. 

The reason: The research facility recently announced it is conducting studies
on marine life using human cholesterol drugs. The drugs have a beneficial
effect on sea turtles and birds that have been affected by red tide, helping
them to recover more quickly. 

Mote would like to have the unused drugs, but there are procedures and
policies in place that must be take into account before it can accept them. 

Meanwhile, Brosious isn't alone in trying to get rid of unwanted prescription
drugs responsibly. There are obstacles when it comes to discarding unneeded
or unwanted prescription drugs and, ironically, some are in the form of
government regulations. 

That disturbs prevention specialists working to cut down narcotics use among
youngsters, because medicine cabinets are their leading source of illegal
prescription drugs. 

Also vulnerable are the elderly and the environment. Antibiotics and birth
control medicine have shown up in drinking water and in sharks, according to
recent studies. 

The problem is especially acute in Southwest Florida. 

Sarasota County led Florida in 2007 for accidental overdoses among the
elderly. Figures for 2008, still being analyzed, aren't looking good, said
Curt Lavarello, executive director of the Sarasota Coalition on Substance

The problem: Two or more doctors may prescribe similar or identical medicines
for different ailments in the same patient. Florida is one of only a few
states without a prescription-tracking database, so there's no way for
doctors to prevent duplication of medication, Lavarello said. 

Bills now working their way through the state Legislature will result in the
establishment of a tracking database, if they pass. 

The county faces "a very serious epidemic of pharmaceutical overdoses," he

Kids at risk too 

Easy access puts young people at greater risk. Some teens hold pill-popping
parties, engaging in risky behavior using drugs filched from mom and dad, or
grandma's medicine cabinet. 

"They're called 'pharm parties,'" said Theresa Skinner, a drug prevention
specialist with Drug Free Charlotte County. "They bring collected drugs, put
them in a basket and everyone takes a handful, swigging it down with

National drug prevention specialist Marc Fomby recently talked to teens and
parents at a series of town hall meetings in Englewood and elsewhere in
Charlotte County. 

"Pills that speed up the heart rate and others that slow down the heart rate
can make you sit down in a chair, go to sleep and forget to breathe," he

He urges parents to be aware of what's in their medicine cabinets, to monitor
their children's access to pills, and to know exactly how many pills should
be in a container. 

Hoping to ease the problem of prescription drug abuse, Drug Free Collier
County and the Sheriff's Office kicked off a program a few years ago to
collect unused pharmaceuticals. They hold "take-back days" at certain
locations where residents can safely drop off the contents of their medicine

On March 14, 340 people brought almost 5,000 bottles of medications to seven
locations in Collier, according to Maribel De Armas, prevention coordinator
for Drug Free Collier. 

Intake quadrupled over the previous event in November, she said. 

"Here in Collier, it's getting to the point where we're starting to change
the mindset of the community," De Armas said. 

Charlotte County tried a similar program with less success. 

Only about 100 bottles of prescriptions were turned in, said Amity Chandler,
executive director of Drug Free Charlotte. 

Disposal can be a problem 

The proper disposal of expired and unused pharmaceuticals is problematic. 

Stores such as Publix and CVS work with vendors, sometimes known as reverse
distributors, that handle expired and returned medicines. 

Those companies either incinerate the unused medicines or return them to
manufacturers for a rebate. 

But spokespeople at Publix and CVS said neither company is set up to handle
full-scale pharmaceutical returns by the general public. 

"If customers happen to bring us expired meds, we will continue to accept
them," said Shannon Patten, a spokesperson for Publix. "As far as making a
large announcement: We're not ready for it. We're not set up for it." 

Ditto for CVS, which does not accept consumer returns, according to Mike
DeAngelis, a CVS spokesperson. 

"No pharmacy would be able to handle a regular influx of people trying to
return medicine," he said. "It's a very controlled environment. You have to
have law enforcement there." 

That's a problem for drug-collection efforts, Chandler said. 

"When you're dealing with narcotics, it gets tricky," Chandler said. "A
deputy has to be there. The Drug Enforcement Agency is going to control or
regulate all scheduled narcotics." 

Environmental consequences are great 

As harmful as prescription drugs can be to the elderly and kids, they also
can harm wildlife when they make their way into the water supply. 

That worries Charlotte County environmental administrator Herman Delasco. He
noted that medicine flushed down the toilet or sink finds its way into
groundwater, which flows into canals and harbors. 

"It disrupts the whole microbial community," he said. 

Nine out of 10 bull sharks in a 2006 study tested positive for the active
ingredient in the antidepressant Zoloft. Concentration levels were extremely
low, but antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft were shown to trigger
premature spawning in zebra mussels in other studies. 

Brosious, meanwhile, is still waiting to see if Mote can take her unused

In the past, people have donated medicine to Mote, but regulations have
tightened, said Deborah Fauquier, a Mote researcher and veterinarian. 

"Usually, we get (medications) from doctors' offices and hospitals," Fauquier
said. "I just don't know if it's legal." 

How to dispose of unused medicine 

Best: Hazardous waste incineration. 

Second best: Municipal waste-to-energy facility -- as long as the facility
has an operating permit that allows for waste pharmaceuticals. 

Third best: Class one solid waste landfill -- as long as the facility has an
operating permit that allows for waste pharmaceuticals. 

To protect the environment, do the following instead of flushing unused

* Keep drugs in their original container. 

* Black out your name, prescription number and other identifying personal
details on the label. 

* Add water or soda to pills to start dissolving them. 

* Add cat litter or dirt to liquid medicine. 

* Secure the lid with duct tape. 

* Put the bottle in an opaque container such as a laundry detergent bottle. 

* Tape that container closed. 

* Hide the container in the trash. Do not put it in a recycle bin. 

Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Laurie Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Waste Reduction Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Rd., MS 4555
Tallahassee FL 32399-2400
P: 850.245.8759
F: 850.245.8811
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us 

Mercury: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/mercury/default.htm 

Unwanted Medicine:

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