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Upcoming Event Offers Way to Dispose of Prescription Meds - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Upcoming Event Offers Way to Dispose of Prescription Meds

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When finished with a medication, dumping what's left may seem like an acceptable and convenient method of disposal. But that can be harmful for both you, your family, and the environment. An event this weekend aims to help people get rid of their drugs the right way.

It's difficult to actually regulate how people dispose of old medicines and sharp objects like needles, but it's best to not just throw them away. However, keeping old medications around can be a hazard for houses with pets and children, or even for people juggling different medications who can put themselves at risk of taking the wrong one.

The real key, said Bill Weigold, the manager of environmental services and sustainability at Martha Jefferson Hospital, is to avoid disposal into residential waste systems.

Primarily, don't flush old medications into the toilet or throw them in the trash. That's because there's no real way of treating medication in the sewage and waste system, so there's the potential to affect our drinking water and wildlife, among other things.

"There are proven biological effects on rivers and streams and biologists have determined it's potentially an effect of chemicals we put into our waste streams," Weingold said. "And even leaching into the ground water from landfills if medications are sent to the residential trash systems," he said.

On the other hand, it's also not good to keep old medications around.

"You never want to hold to a medication. Things change. Patient's medical history changes. You might not be the exact same patient you were when you took the medication before," said Meg Taylor, the clinical coordinator of pharmacy services at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Taylor's advice relates to why medication should not be taken past the expiration date. The date the manufacturer puts on the label means the drug may not be as effective past that day, or it may even be dangerous. "It's not guaranteed to be as potent after the expiration date. You don't know what you're taking after the date," Taylor said.

"If you have a headache, it might not eliminate your headache or it might come back sooner," she said. Or, depending on how long after the expiration, the drug could break down to other compounds. 

The best thing to do with old medications is take them to an official collection event where they will be disposed of by professionals.

On Saturday, Martha Jefferson Hospital and the Albemarle County Police Department are taking part in the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative. Drop-off locations will be at the county police department on 5th Street and the Martha Jefferson Outpatient Care Center on Pantops. The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Those are just two of 200 locations across Virginia. Click here to find the closest location near you. 

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