Omahans looking to get rid of certain unused or expired prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications now have a regular place to take them to be disposed of properly.
Hy-Vee stores in the Omaha area now are accepting “noncontrolled” medications in their pharmacies. Controlled medications, such as narcotics, depressants and stimulants, won't be accepted. People with those drugs still must wait for one of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Drug Take-Back Days, one of which is scheduled for Saturday, April 27.
A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Regional Poison Center said having the pharmacy dropoffs is a big step toward addressing the prescription drug abuse problem, at least in the city.
“Hats off to Hy-Vee,” Joan McVoy said. “This is on their own dime.”
Other drug-disposal programs, such as the one in place at many Lincoln pharmacies, get grant money to help pay for collection and disposal costs, she said.
The idea for the Omaha program started at a drug take-back event last year at the Hy-Vee at 180th and Pacific Streets. Representatives from the LiveWise Coalition, a drug-abuse prevention and education group, were talking about drug drop-off programs with Tally Mertes, the store director. Mertes said she used to manage a Hy-Vee drugstore in Mason City, Iowa, and knew about the drug take-back program in place in Iowa.
Mertes said she contacted a company that supplies drug-disposal boxes and talked with other Omaha store directors about setting them up in their pharmacies.
“All the store directors are very excited,” she said. “They know the importance of keeping this medication out of the wrong hands.”
Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call prescription drug abuse an epidemic. An estimated 48 million people ages 12 and older have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in their lifetime, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Authorities used to recommend that people flush unused drugs down the toilet, but the Nebraska Pharmacists Association recommends against that. The group cites a 2002 study that found very low concentrations of medications in 80 percent of 139 waterways across the country. Seven streams and groundwater samples in Nebraska were included in the study. Nonprescription drugs such as acetaminophen were found most frequently, the association said.
Mertes said the dropped-off drugs will be sealed in a box and sent to a disposal site and incinerated. Information on the containers that people bring in won't be accessible, she said, but those who are concerned could remove the labels or block out their names with a marker.
A list of the DEA's take-back locations for next month's event will be posted on the DEA's website, www.dea.gov, early next month.
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