Community

MMH adds resource to reduce prescription drug abuse

 Montrose Memorial Hospital unveiled a resource Friday that is expected to reduce prescription drug abuse and help protect the environment.

 Called The Box, the green disposal box is a new service provided by the hospital to help remove expired or unwanted prescription drugs from the community. The Box is secured in the hospital Emergency Department lobby, allowing for 24/7 public access.

Before The Box, many in the community struggled for a proper way to dispose of their prescription drugs in a safe manner. This disposal resource should allow individuals to quickly remove prescription drugs from their homes any time they need to. The Box has a mechanism similar to an old-fashioned mailbox, allowing for disposal but not retrieval of drugs. No forms are required for disposing; anyone can visit and drop their unwanted drugs directly into the box.

“For years pharmacists have struggled with DEA and EPA regulations pertaining to disposal of patients’ unwanted medications from home.  This has led to inconsistent or confusing recommendations for patients wishing to safely dispose of their medications,” said George Papineau, Pharmacy Department Director at Montrose Memorial Hospital. “With changes in rules and regulations regarding the ability of pharmacies to offer household medication collection and the creation of secure return boxes, we can finally offer a safe, secure and compliant method of disposing of patients’ unwanted medications.”

Prior to The Box, there was no way for the hospital to accept such materials. Although often requested, the hospital was not legally allowed to accept prescriptions back from community members. With a secured box and approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), MMH is now a registered collector of controlled substances.

“It’s important that people dispose their unused medications, especially opioids, safely. We know that more than 70 percent of people who develop opioid use disorders start by taking leftover medication that was prescribed for someone else, often a family member,” said Dr. Robert Valuck, director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. “Taking meds back to a safe disposal box is a step anyone can take to help prevent prescription drug misuse.”

Prescription Drug Abuse has been described as a national crisis, causing the development of Drug Takeback events across the United States. According to a DEA press release regarding those events, medicines in home cabinets are very susceptible to being abused: studies demonstrate that a majority of the abused prescription drugs are acquired from family and friends—including teens taking drugs from the home medicine cabinet.

In October, President Donald Trump announced efforts to address drug addiction and opioid abuse—including a statement declaring it a Nationwide Public Health Emergency. According to the statement, expected deaths from drug overdose in 2016 was expected to exceed 64,000—or a rate of 175 deaths per day.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration has advised the public that flushing unused medicines down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—the most common methods for disposal—posed safety and health hazards to the public. By utilizing proper disposal methods, The Box will help Friends & Family in the region to protect the environment.

About the author

Leann Tobin

Leann Tobin

Leann Tobin is the Director of Community Engagement at Montrose Memorial Hospital. She has been at MMH since 1999 and participates in the strategic planning and leadership for the organization. Leann grew up in Lakewood Colorado and received her B.S. from Colorado State University. She and her husband, Pat, met while traveling in the international program Up with People. They have two sons, Bryce and Dylan.