Across the nation, Saturday, Oct. 26, is the 18th National Prescription Take Back Day, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Last year in South Dakota, the DEA’s statistics show 5,661 pounds were turned in. Over the past 17 events, South Dakota turned over 94,149 pounds of prescriptions.
Pierre does not participate any longer directly in the program, but please do not fret. There are three places in town designated for expired prescription drop off 365 days a year.
At the Pierre Police Department, Lynn’s Dakotamart and Walgreens, all have boxes for convenient disposal.
Right in front of the counter at the pharmacy at Dakotamart sits a five-foot green box designated for drop-offs of unused and expired prescriptions.
While it is important to always finish a cycle of antibiotics when prescribed, there are other items to watch out for.
“For antibiotics it’s very important,” Kristen Carter,31, a pharmacist at Dakotamart since 2013 and graduate of South Dakota State University said. “If they don’t take them all the way through it can make the infection come stronger and that leads to antibiotic resistance. That can create super-infections.”
The day is not necessarily about antibiotics, because they all get consumed as per the prescription. The problem often is with other drugs like pain pills.
“If it’s an as needed pain prescription, it’s not always needed to take the entirety of the prescription,” Carter said. “Because if it’s an as needed thing and you may not have pain as long as they think you are gonna have pain, or you might be able to get by with something over the counter. So that creates a problem where you have a lot of leftover medication.”
The do not flush versus the do flush list takes into consideration drugs that are more hazardous to be out on the streets or in your cabinet.
At the police department, Captain Bryan Walz explained that the investigation division makes periodic inspections and collections quarterly for disposal.
Between July and September, Pierre Police Department collected 10.38 pounds. At the beginning of last year, from January to April, the amount was over 43 pounds, but sometimes, Walz says, it can be as low as 3.4 pounds.
At Dakotamart, they as well, periodically inspect and collect through a secure system including chain-of-custody articles, which include witnesses and signing off of documents. After Dakotamart collects their drop-offs, they are sent out of state for destruction.
“It’s just so convenient,” Carter said. “It’s in the middle of town. it’s in the grocery store.”
Carter points out there are occasions where large amounts of prescriptions could be made irrelevant. In the case of older and infirm folks who die, with a nightstand full of “ ‘scripts,” could lead to a large drop off.
The DEA and Federal Drug Administration both have more information on their websites about what to flush, and what not to flush. They also include directions for non-flushing disposal. Often the steps contain annexing the drugs to kitty-litter, used coffee grounds or dirt in a vessel to render the drugs no longer consumable. “Do not crush or break them apart” are included in the instructions.
“It’s a small step in preventing accessibility to people who shouldn’t be getting their hands-on prescriptions,” Carter said. “It’s kind of like your smoke detectors, when you want to change the batteries during daylights savings, it’s your reminder. Any time there’s a drug take-back day, it’s a reminder to gather that stuff up, and get it into the box, and get rid of it. Even though you don’t have to wait for take back day, you can do it any time we are open. It’s a good reminder to go through your stuff and do some fall cleaning.”