EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

October 28, 2011

Editorial: Dispose of prescription drugs safety

Americans rely on prescription drugs to treat their ailments and maintain their health. But while prescription medicines surely have extended human life and improved its quality, they are not without their down side.

Today, it seems, there is a new drug for every ailment — and that means home medicine cabinets are brimming with unused or expired drugs.

Now, there's a safe and easy way to clean out your medicine cabinet — drop off your unused medicines at a designated collection area. Tomorrow is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

The event, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in most towns, allows people with expired medications — or those no longer needed — to dispose of them before they end up in a landfill or the wrong hands. Communities throughout the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire are participating.

Getting rid of unneeded medicines is better than letting them hang around, police say. Burglars today are not only looking for computers and televisions, they're raiding medicine cabinets for painkillers and other drugs. Unused medicines are also dangerous for families with children, who might take the drugs either by accident or with an intent to experiment.

Drugs should not be disposed of carelessly. Tossing them into the trash raises the possibility that children, animals or even adults will get at them.

"A lot of people go through trash if it's left on the street. You don't want anybody else getting that kind of thing," North Andover police Chief Paul Gallagher told reporter Doug Ireland.

Nor should medicines be flushed down the toilet. Studies have found that many drugs survive the water treatment process and end up in the environment. Traces of drugs have been found in rivers, streams and drinking water supplies. Medications, particularly hormones, have been found to alter the reproductive chemistry of some wildlife.

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