Drug disposal event to help environment

On Oct. 26, area residents will have a chance to get rid of unused medicines and personal care products the right way - by taking them to a drug takeback event at the Groton Senior Center.

The event will be one of hundreds sponsored nationally by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as part of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. But it won't be the only opportunity for local residents to clean out their medicine cabinets without flushing pharmaceuticals down the toilet, a practice that can harm the environment when even small amounts pass through wastewater treatment plants and end up in rivers and streams. Dropboxes for unused products are in the lobbies at more than a dozen southeastern Connecticut police departments, available for use anytime.

"We're trying to promote the use of the dropboxes and raise awareness," said Michelle Hamilton, senior health program coordinator at the Ledge Light Health District, the public health agency for East Lyme, Groton, New London, Ledyard and Waterford.

Last month Ledge Light received an $8,000 grant from the American Medical Association for a public education campaign about proper disposal of unused medications and personal care products. The campaign, Hamilton said, will include billboards and other advertisements with a "take it to the box" message, as well as outreach at community events, she said.

According to the DEA, awareness about proper drug disposal has been increasing each year since it began the drug takeback events three years ago. This year's event will be its seventh. The last one in April collected 50 percent more pills than the previous one, for a total of 371 tons collected at 5,829 locations nationwide, the agency said in a news release.

The DEA works with local and state police departments on the collections. In Connecticut, local police bring the unused products from collection events and dropboxes to incinerators, Hamilton said.

By bringing unused products to the events or drop boxes, the DEA said, people eliminate the chances they will be misused, stolen or abused, and avoid the safety, health and environmental hazards of improper disposal. Michele Devine, executive director of the Southeastern Regional Action Council, said culling the medicine cabinet also helps prevent suicides.

Over the last two years, the council has helped fund the placement of drop boxes in police departments, and works to raise awareness at health fairs and through marketing campaigns and fliers distributed at local pharmacies, Devine said.

Even though more people are attending the takeback events and using the drop boxes, Hamilton said, there is still too much getting dumped down the drain.

"People are still not aware that it gets into the environment," she said.

j.benson@theday.com

Drug disposal options

Where to bring unused medicines and personal care products:

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

• Date: Oct. 26
• Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Local site: Groton Senior Center, 52 Newtown Road

Local dropboxes:
• Colchester Police Department, 15 Old Hartford Road
• East Lyme Police Department, 278 Main St.
• Groton Town Police Department, 68 Groton Long Point Road
• Groton City Police Department, 295 Meridian St.
• Montville Police Department, 911 Route 32
• New London Police Department, 5 Gov. Winthrop Blvd.
• Norwich Police Department, 70 Thames St.
• Waterford Police Department, 41 Avery Lane

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