Monday, July 19, 2010

Over-prescribing and inadequate disposal of pharmaceuticals hurts our kids

Growing numbers of neighbors, schools, and local governments have serious concerns about the dangers of keeping unused pharmaceuticals in our medicine cabinets and  later flushing them down the toilet.   For one, drugs like estrogen, anti-depressants, ibuprofen, and antibiotics, when flushed, enter our water supply.  They have been found to change the sex of small fish and some can never be removed from our water supply.

An overriding concern is the ready availability of controlled substances like hydrocodone, oxycontine, and demerol -- getting into the hands of children, students, contractors, and even house guests.  According to USA Today "prescription drugs are more accessible to teens than beer". 

My experience shows doctors tend to over-prescribe pain-killers - out of habit, convenience and/or favor to their patients.   Over-prescribing contributes to substance abuse and disposal issues.    Example 1:  An oral surgeon pulled my daughter's four wisdom teeth and  prescribed 20 tabs of Hydrocodone 500M ("Vicodin") and 25 tabs of Ibufrofen 600mg.  But, she only used 10 tabs of the Hydrocodone.  (Some mothers refuse to give their kids any Hydrocodone, but the doctors still prescribe it in advance).  When I called the office nurse about it, she told me "larger adults can take more."  What does that mean? The doctor wouldn't return my call.  

Example 2:  I found 11 tabs remaining of a 20 tab prescription of Vicodin prescribed by an Urgent Care physician for a shoulder pain.  Example 3:  28 of 40 expired Demeral tablets were found.  I lock controlled substances in a safe.  The examples in my house show our doctors prescribed twice as much controlled pain medication as my family needed.

So where do we dispose of these unused pharmaceuticals?   I spent half a day figuring it out.  Not one pharmacy I visited would take back the controlled substances.   Most pharmacies refer you to Bartell Drug at Bridle Trail Village (425-881-5544).  They have excellent service and advice.  Bartell's take your non-addictive pharmaceuticals and incinerate them.  Both Bartell and Group Health (425-882-6150) recommend you to throw controlled substances in the trash, ground up with water and coffee grounds.  Group Health will dispose your non-addictive drugs in a locked container per their "take back program".   I called Evergreen Hospital.  They are looking into it.  

The QFC pharmacist recommended flushing controlled substances like Vicodin and OxyContin down the toilet, per FDA advisory.  She referred me to Redmond's Group Health "take-back" program.    She also recommended pouring both non-addictive and controlled medications into a sealable plastic bag, crushing it and adding water and then add coffee grounds.  I think the best website to visit for advice is .  They don't recommend flushing any pharmaceuticals. 

Redmond Councilman Hank Margeson has a keen interest in this problem and is working on it.  Redmond Councilman Hank Myers is interested.  Perhaps we can help Hank and encourage our State Representatives,  candidates, and health care providers to take action?

Report and Opinion by Bob Yoder


Anonymous said...

You may dispose of many medications at the Group Healthy Pharmacy, basically across from KFC.
Can't imagine why you'd have to be a GHC member.... The can is just out in the pharmacy waiting area.
Better to keep med's out of the groundwater, and out of the hands of the wrong people.
Although I hadn't heard that they don't accept controlled substances before.... Those are the ones I want out of my house!

Janet said...

I understand your concerns about disposal of excess drugs, but not to the extent of getting the legislature involved. We already have solutions to the disposal issue. What the public needs is more education on the topic, not more laws.

Bob Yoder said...

The Group Health pharmacist said I didn't have to be a member. It is a convenient drop location for Redmondmonites.

Carol Rogers Carnahan, RPh said...

Thank you for the recommendation. We will continue to work with the DEA to hopefully find a way to accept controlled substances for return in the future.

Carol Rogers Carnahan, RPh
Assistant Vice President Pharmacy
206.763.2626 x570

Bob Yoder said...

Responding to Janet: Please share with us your solution to the problem of disposal of oxycodone, ritilin, and other controlled substances. Your knowledge is appreaciated!

I heard from Councilmember Margeson last night that Sammamish has a disposal site for controlled substances - but didn't get the address.

Tracy Hoien said...

Thank you for bringing this VERY serious matter to our community and the attention of your readers.

The SAMA Foundation (Science and Management of Addictions) has posted return locations on their website at Pharmacies can't take back controlled substances, but police stations can including King County Locations - Bellevue, Bothell, Burien, City of Snoqualmie, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Kirkland, North Bend, Redmond, Renton, Seattle and Shoreline.

We can all help address the problem of prescription drug misuse by signing a pledge to CHECK, LOCK & DISPOSE. The pledge document can be found at

Bob Yoder said...

Bothell Police accepts controlled substances!! Thanks to Tracy Hoien for the link! (above). The Redmond PD doesn't dispose of any pharmaceuticals.

Bothell Police
18410 101st Avenue NE
Bothell, WA 98011 ACCEPTS CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES and other medicines
Call 425-388-3199 for details & hours

Jeni Craswell said...

Thanks Bob for bringing up this important topic! You'll be happy to know that a Leadership Eastside class of 2012 team is working on this exact issue. They have already successfully had a narcotics and controlled substance drop box installed in Sammamish and will be further addressing this issue over the next year with their team.

Stay tuned and put April 14, 2011 on your calendar to attend LE's Project Presentation Day to learn about what they've accomplished!

Bob Yoder said...

Jeni - Great news LE is working on this. Do you have the address for the Sammamish drop site? BTW, I'm aware Hank Margeson and others from LE were working on a Mental Health Court for the Eastside and I heard great news from Mike Rynas of NAMI-Eastside that the Eastside now has it's own Mental Health Court!!! Does anyone know where it is?

Sherry Grindeland, Evergreen Hospital PR said...

Hospitals have to follow certain protocols when they discard outdated drugs. We are required by law to have them destroyed and it is quite expensive. (I didn't ask exact amount.) We give them to a company that specializes in this and they're incinerated at extremely high temperatures.

The pharmacists I talked to said the best way to dispose of drugs was to mix them with kitty litter --- USED kitty litter - and put them in your household trash. Yuk!

Sherry Grindeland, Evergreen Hospital Public Relations.

Evergreen Hospital does not dispose of any consumer pharmaceuticals at this time, according to the Administration (Ms. B)