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Medication Disposal | Montcalm Prevention Collaborative

Medication Disposal Coalition of Montcalm County


The Medication Disposal Coalition of Montcalm County formed in 2010 when it became clear that improperly stored and improperly disposed medications were having a negative impact on the health of our residents and our environment.  The group now functions as a work team of the Montcalm Prevention Collaborative.

Major accomplishments include:

  • Installing 5 medication drop boxes in Montcalm County
  • Hosting a number of drop-off days each year
  • Collecting over 4,000 pounds of medications to date
  • Collaborating with the Mid-Michigan District Health Department and Spectrum Health to offer free sharps disposal to residents.
Importance of disposing of unused or expired medications

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse continues to grow at an alarming rate. The problem often starts at home, where people begin abusing medication from their own medicine cabinet. Some people experiment with prescription drugs because they think they will have more fun, lose weight, fit in, or study more effectively. Others think prescription drugs are safer and less addictive than street drugs, but that’s just not so.

Prescription drugs abused most often:

  • Opioids: usually prescribed to treat pain. Examples include Oxycontin and Vicodin.
  • Central nervous system depressants: usually prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Examples include Xanax and Valium
  • Stimulants: Usually prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Examples include Concerta and Adderall.

Accidental Ingestion

Americans spend $200 billion annually on prescription drugs. Many of these drugs are kept in unlocked medicine cabinets, making them easily accessible to those whom they were not intended, including children. Thousands of young children wind up in the emergency room each year because they took medications while their caregiver wasn’t looking.

Environmental Contamination

Putting medication in the trash is not a good idea because they can seep out of their containers and contaminate the soil. Flushing medication down the toilet or sink can lead to contamination of the water supply, causing illness to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife.

According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), pharmaceuticals have been detected in surface, ground water and municipal water systems.  In fact, 80% of sampled Michigan streams contained detectable levels of Prozac, heart medications, antibiotics, and more.  The presence of these elements has an obvious negative impact on humans, fish, birds, wildlife and livestock.  Furthermore, wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove most of these compounds that are discharged into our surface and ground water.  Even if you live in a remote area, you should be concerned as your drinking water may be affected.

You may be surprised to learn that:
  • Except for marijuana, teens abuse prescription drugs more than any other illicit substance.
  • Some teens and prescription drug abusers attend parties where drugs are poured into a bowl, mixed, and shared.
  • Prescription drugs are sometimes sold on the street like illegal drugs.
  • Drugs available without a prescription, such as cough and cold medications, can also be abused.
  • Taking drugs without a prescription, or sharing a prescription with friends, is illegal.
  • Over 2,000 teens begin abusing prescription drugs each day.
  • 56% of teens say it’s easy to get prescription drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinet.
  • Four in 10 teens who have misused or abused a prescription drug got it from their parent’s medicine cabinet.
  • The majority of teens get prescription drugs from family and friends.
  • 27% of teens mistakenly believe that misusing or abusing prescription drugs is safer than using street drugs.
  • Teens most commonly abuse pain relievers (OxyContin, Vicodin), stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall), and sedatives and tranquilizers ) Valium and Xanax).
Keep your family safe

Safeguard Your Home

  • Keep all medication in a safe place such as a locked cabinet or lock-box in a visible area of the house.
  • Educate friends, family and others about securing medications.

Monitor Medications

  • Track how many pills are in each prescription bottle or pack.
  • Track refills, including your teen’s medications.
  • Educate friends and family, especially grandparents, about regularly monitoring their prescriptions.

Dispose of old or unused medication properly

  • Do not dispose of medication in the garbage, sink or toilet.
  • Take unused or unneeded medications to an approved location near you. (See upper right for list.)

Risk Factors

  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Younger age (use commonly begins in teens and early 20s).
  • Exposure to peer pressure or a social environment where there is drug use.
  • Easy access to prescription drugs.
  • Lack of knowledge about prescription drugs.
  • Past or present addictions to other substances, including alcohol.

Warning Signs

  • Missing medication from family members.
  • Changes in appearance and behavior.
  • Abrupt mood swings.
  • Physical signs- constricted pupils, nausea, flushed skin.
  • Excessive over-the-counter medicine use.
  • Always looking for money.
  • Trouble in school.
  • Loss of interest in job, family, friends, exercise, hobbies, relationships, etc.
  • Missing valuables.

Other Tips

  • Talk to your kids about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. Let them know that experimenting with prescription drugs can lead to addiction, overdose or even death.
  • Make sure teens understand abusing prescription drugs is illegal, including sharing them with friends.
  • Be a positive role model when using prescription drugs.
  • Educate teens about following medication instructions and dosages.
  • Supervise your child’s activities, know who their friends are, and monitor their surroundings.