This Saturday, October 8th, we will hold our 5th Operation Medicine Cabinet (OMC), a prescription and over-the-counter drug take-back program aimed at keeping drugs off the streets and out of our rivers.
The first OMC was held in October of 2009, as a result of collaboration between the MountainKeepers organization, the Upper Watauga Riverkeeper, Watauga County Recycling and Solid Waste Department, North Carolina Cooperative Extension and local law enforcement, including the Watauga County Sheriff. As the program has continued, it has grown to include many organizations, agencies and businesses. We could not continue to have so much success without help from the community.
Since the program began, we have held the event each May and October. In October 2010, we collected 350,000 pills – our biggest event yet. Through this program, we accept all prescription drugs, no questions asked. We also accept medical supplies including needles and other sharps, as well as over-the-counter drugs. Once we have collected the drugs, they are packaged by the Watauga County Sheriff’s department and sent away for incineration. Incineration is the safest means for disposing of expired and unused medications.
One obvious reason for holding a prescription drug take-back program is to reduce prescription drug abuse by kids. Kids often gain access to dangerous painkillers through the medicine cabinets of their friends and families. A second reason is to keep drugs out of the local rivers. When drugs are flushed down the toilet or washed down the sink, the drugs go through wastewater treatment facilities and are then released into the local waterways. Wastewater treatment facilities cannot remove antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals from wastewater. Even over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen have been detected in some watersheds.
The accumulation of drugs in rivers, streams and lakes pose several problems. Antibiotics in waterways contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Increased hormones in waterways act as endocrine disrupters, which have negative consequences on the development and reproduction of aquatic animals such as fish and amphibians. With new drugs being developed all the time, ongoing research is needed to catalogue the affects of these drugs on the environment. Our safest course of action is to do our part to keep all drugs out of our waterways.
You can drop off your drugs this Saturday, October 8th, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at the following locations:
Food Lion in Boone
Food Lion in Deep Gap
Food Lion in Blowing Rock
Foscoe Fire Department
Beech Mountain Town Hall
Beaverdam Volunteer Fire Department
Appalachian State University will also have a drop of location on Friday, October 7th from 11:00 am to 2:00pm in the Plemmons Student Union building.