When you open your cabinet in your bathroom, what do you find? If you are like me, you might find expired sunscreen, an old bottle of bright orange nail polish, and more miniature hand sanitizer than you know what to do with. Along with my harmless clutter, I find medicines that I’m no longer using, from cold medicine from last flu season, to expired infants Tylenol, to prescription pain medication from a past surgery.
I’m probably not alone in not giving much thought to getting rid of these unused medications. But recently, I’ve realized there are many reasons to take the simple step of dropping our family’s unused medications off at a nearby drop-box.
Medicine return keeps loved ones safe
According to the Washington Poison Center, medication bottles are not completely childproof. And kids often think pills are candy.
The Washington Poison Center’s Specialists in Poison Information – nurses and pharmacists with expert-level training in toxicology – have seen a rise in calls related to intentional overdoses. The Washington Poison Center strongly recommends getting unused prescription and over-the-counter medicines out of the home. Their specialists in poison information are always available to provide expert and confidential advice 24/7/365 by calling: 1 (800) 222-1222.
It’s easy to keep loved ones safe by locking up the medicines you use and dispose of what you don’t use at a secure medication drop-box.
Medicine return can help protect my community
Unused prescription drugs can find their way into the wrong hands. We know from public health data that opioid use disorder often starts with prescription drugs. Provider education and new prescribing rules have reduced prescription opioid misuse, and there’s more we can all do, including in the home. Getting rid of unused medications can help prevent young people from starting down a path of misuse.
Medicine return prevents harmful pollutants from entering the environment
It’s better for the environment to dispose of unwanted medicines at a drop-box rather than flush them or throw them away. Medicines flushed down the toilet, the drain or thrown in the garbage can end up in our environment. Children and pets can also get into the medicines they find in the garbage, putting them at risk.
Medicine return is convenient. Text to find a location near you
King County has over 100 locations where you can return your unused medications and it’s free! There are many drop-boxes in grocery stores, pharmacies and health clinics. (The boxes look a lot like a mailbox.)
And now it’s easier than ever to find a drop-box. Text the word MEDS to the number 667873. You will get a message back asking for your zip code. Reply with your zip code and get nearby locations of drop-boxes sent right to your phone.
You can also go to www.MedicineReturn.org to see the full list of locations.
About the artwork
The series of DON’T HANG ON TO MEDS comic strips share reasons why it’s important to get rid of unused medications in the home, told from the perspectives of parents, grandparents, people who have experienced addiction, and healthcare providers.
Seattle comics artist Tatiana Gill and Public Health’s communications specialist Meredith Li-Vollmer developed the comics campaign. Read a selection of the comic strips and learn more about the artist and the approach.
View and download multiple comic strips and images at the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Taskforce: kingcounty.gov/DontHangOnToMeds
The artwork is now on display at the Chinatown/International District bus tunnel as well as on local buses throughout King County. More artwork will be displayed at the Pioneer Square bus tunnel station in January.
Original published on December 13, 2018