‘Take Back’ cam­paign puts meds where they be­long

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Lisa Neff Staff writer

Take back meds to be safe.

Take back meds to be green.

These are the mes­sages de­liv­ered by the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and ad­dic­tion spe­cial­ists col­lab­o­rat­ing on a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal spring-clean­ing cam­paign across Mil­wau­kee County.

Take Back My Meds MKE launched March 20, the first day of spring.

“Safely dis­pos­ing of un­used medicine dur­ing spring clean­ing at a drop box … is some­thing each of us can do to com­bat the opi­oid cri­sis and pro­tect Lake Michi­gan,” said Hashim Zaibak, CEO of Hayat Phar­macy and a found­ing mem­ber of the Take Back My Meds MKE coali­tion.

The coali­tion con­sists of 15 com­mu­nity groups and busi­nesses and its mission is to make it eas­ier for peo­ple to dis­pose of un­used medicine safely. Mem­bers in­clude health-fo­cused groups such as Six­teenth Street Com­mu­nity Health Cen­ters and AIDS Re­source Cen­ter of Wis­con­sin, public pol­icy or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Ci­ti­zen Ac­tion of Wis­con­sin, and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, in­clud­ing Mil­wau­kee River­keeper and Clean Wis­con­sin.

Unit­ing these groups are two ba­sic con­cerns: Leav­ing un­used drugs in a medicine cab­i­net cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for abuse, while flush­ing un­used drugs down a toi­let or drain puts them into wa­ter­ways, where they en­dan­ger both aquatic and hu­man health.

“The in­ap­pro­pri­ate dis­posal of pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion is a huge area of con­cern. The com­pounds and chem­i­cals from our pre­scrip­tions and over-the-counter med­i­ca­tions pol­lute our wa­ter sup­ply when we flush them down the toi­let or dump them in the garbage. When not dis­posed of prop­erly, the chem­i­cals and heavy met­als these drugs of­ten con­tain can re­main in our wa­ter sup­ply, harm­ing aquatic life and hu­man health,” cau­tions Clean Wis­con­sin.

“When Mil­wau­kee County res­i­dents flush un­used medicine down the toi­let, it goes straight into Lake Michi­gan be­cause MMSD is un­able to treat it,” Am­ber Meyer Smith, vice pres­i­dent of pro­grams and gov­ern­ment re­la­tions for Clean Wis­con­sin, stated.

She ad­vised, “Us­ing a drop box or mail back envelope keeps un­used medicine out of Lake Michi­gan, the source of drink­ing wa­ter in Mil­wau­kee County.”

Take Back My Meds MKE, at take­back­mymeds.com, has mapped drop boxes or dis­posal en­velopes for un­used medicine at 76 lo­ca­tions.

OPI­OID AD­DIC­TION OF­TEN STARTS AT HOME

Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to the Take Back My Meds MKE coali­tion is the proper dis­posal of un­used opi­oids.

Out of 125 mil­lion U.S. house­holds, an es­ti­mated 25 per­cent have opi­oids in them.

In the Mil­wau­kee area, data from the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention shows 7.7 opi­oid pre­scrip­tions were dis­pensed for ev­ery 10 res­i­dents in 2016.

And last year, at least 336 peo­ple in the county died from drug over­dose deaths — the ma­jor­ity in­volv­ing opi­oids.

One more statis­tic: 70 per­cent of opi­oid ad­dic­tions are said to start at home, very of­ten from un­used medicine left in a cab­i­net.

“Keep­ing un­used medicine in your house is ask­ing for trou­ble,” said Michelle Jaskul­ski, an out­reach di­rec­tor at Ad­dic­tion Pol­icy Fo­rum who said her two sons used drugs in the home. “So please, get rid of it in a safe and re­spon­si­ble way.”

RE­SEARCH CON­FIRMS HARM

Stud­ies show that at least two-fifths of house­holds in the United States con­tain un­used medicines. With an es­ti­mated 4.2 bil­lion pre­scrip­tions writ­ten a year and about 40 per­cent of those med­i­ca­tions go­ing un­used, there’s a mas­sive sup­ply of po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous com­pounds leach­ing into wa­ter­ways across the coun­try.

Re­search at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Mil­wau­kee School of Fresh­wa­ter Sci­ences has al­ready iden­ti­fied phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pounds in Lake Michi­gan. A 2015 study at the school de­ter­mined that met­formin — a med­i­ca­tion com­monly taken for Type II di­a­betes that’s found in fresh­wa­ter sys­tems world­wide — can cause male fish to pro­duce eggs.

Re­search con­ducted in cities in Illi­nois, Penn­syl­va­nia, Florida, Texas and Ari­zona found an­tibi­otics, an­ti­his­tamines and anti-seizure med­i­ca­tion in wa­ter­ways.

Stud­ies link phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in the wa­ter to lower sperm counts or dam­aged sperm in fat­head min­now and re­pro­duc­tive changes in wall­eye, carp and bass.

A 2003 study in Texas found two types of an­tide­pres­sants in ev­ery bluegill, black crap­pie and chan­nel cat­fish caught down­stream from a waste­water treat­ment plant.

Earth­worms found in sludge from waste­water plants have tested pos­i­tive for an­tide­pres­sants. So have bull sharks in the Caloosa­hatchee River in Florida.

And a grow­ing body of re­search in­di­cates medicine seep­ing into wa­ter sup­plies can harm hu­mans as well.

STATEWIDE AND NA­TIONAL EF­FORTS

Wis­con­sin’s Depart­ment of Jus­tice is spon­sor­ing Dose of Re­al­ity Week, April 22–29, to raise aware­ness of the on­go­ing ef­fort to pre­vent pre­scrip­tion painkiller abuse in the state. In­for­ma­tion about the week and medicine drop-off lo­ca­tions in com­mu­ni­ties be­yond Mil­wau­kee can be found at dose­of­re­al­i­tywi.gov.

Na­tion­ally, the Drug En­force­ment Agency is spon­sor­ing an­other pre­scrip­tion drug Take Back Day on April 28. In­for­ma­tion can be found

PHOTO: NOAA

A bloody red shrimp — an in­va­sive species in the Great Lakes.

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