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.
Some police departments have installed permanent drug drop-off boxes that allow medications to be dropped off at any time. They include North Andover, Salem and Sandown. Windham police will be installing a box soon.
Tomorrow's special event offers an opportunity to get rid of unneeded prescriptions that are cluttering up medicine cabinets. It's a worthwhile effort.
Drug disposal sites
Here's how and where to participate:
Andover: West Elementary School, 8 a.m. to noon, 58 Beacon St.
Groveland: Police station, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 181 Main St.
Haverhill: Police station, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 40 Bailey Blvd.
Lawrence: Police station, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 90 Lowell St.
Methuen: Police station, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 90 Hampshire St.
North Andover: Police station, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 1475 Osgood St.
New Hampshire (all locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Danville: Kimball Safety Complex, 206 Main St.
Derry: Hood Commons, 35 Crystal Ave.
Hampstead: Fire station, 17 Little's Lane
Kingston: Rite-Aid, 53 Church St.
Londonderry: Police station, 268A Mammoth Road
Newton: Police station, 2 Amesbury Road
Plaistow: Rite-Aid, 31 Garden Road
Salem: Public Works, 21 Cross St.
Sandown: Police station, 314 Main St.
Windham: Police station, 4 Fellows Road