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Pharmaceutical Take Back Effort collects over 51 pounds of medication

A U.S. Air Force airman disposes of unused medication in a medication disposal system. Stony Brook organizations hosted the third Pharmaceutical Take Back Effort in the Student Activities Center on Wednesday, Oct. 24.  PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Division of Student Health, Wellness and Prevention Services teamed up with the Student Health Advisory Committee and Undergraduate Student Government to host the third Pharmaceutical Take Back Effort at the Student Activities Center on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

The three-hour Take Back collected over 51 pounds of pharmaceuticals from students, faculty and staff. The drugs collected will be disposed of through the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Shed the Meds program. Shed the Meds provides a safe and convenient option for people to dispose of pharmaceutical drugs in an environmentally friendly way. Deputy Sheriffs Amie Rodecker and Robert Paasch from the Sheriff’s office helped to handle the boxes of disposed medicine.

Old or expired medicine left alone could be subject to misuse. Data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that a large number of drugs that have been improperly used came from the medicine cabinets of families and friends. The Pharmaceutical Take Back event aims to lower this statistic while not harming the environment.  

“We love showcasing community partnerships with the amazing sheriff’s office here,” Kathleen Valerio, health educator and Peer Education Program coordinator and advisor, who was a main organizer of the event, said. “This is their third time here supporting this environmentally supportive program, and at no cost to the students or the university.”

Gina Biasetti, a staff assistant at Stony Brook University, was one of many to drop off collected drugs. “I helped a friend clean out her mom’s house so we brought in all her old meds,” she said. “I had all my son’s EpiPens which I had to dispose of so they took everything. It was wonderful.”

Biasetti also expressed happiness at knowing that these old medications would not end up in Suffolk County’s water supplies.

“It’s not going to be flushed down into the water system. This is going to get incinerated,” Biasetti said.

A 2014 global review of pharmaceuticals in the environment conducted by the German Environment Agency reported that one major way pharmaceuticals enter the environment is through improper disposal. Unused drugs that are flushed down the toilet or drained down a sink by the consumer end up at sewage treatment plants, which are not properly equipped to be able to remove 100 percent of all drug pollutants. After the sewage treatment plant, these drug pollutants can end up in drinking water, surface water and agricultural soil.

The United States Geological Survey reports that the presence of medications like over-the-counter and prescription drugs in surface water bodies has increased bacterial resistance to antibiotics and interferes with growth and reproduction in aquatic organisms.

Student Health Services Pharmacist Ed Eschmann was also present at the event to answer medication-related questions from attendees.

“At expiration, a drug should be 90 percent of the dose that it’s supposed to be. As it gets older, it gets less and less potent,” Eschmann said, after being asked what the dangers of consuming expired drugs would be.

In previous Take Back events in April 2018 and October 2017, the team collected 47 and 41 pounds, respectively.

Besides medication disposal, CHILL interns volunteering at the Take Back booth promoted other health service events on campus as well. “There’s a flu POD [point of distribution] tonight at Chavin,” Nicole Levy, a CHILL intern and junior nursing major, said. “We’ll have 85 available walk-in flu shots to give out. We give out flu kits, which is Purell, portable thermometers that are reusable, bags of tissues and a couple other services.”

The Drug Enforcement Agency’s national prescription drug Take Back Day is Saturday, Oct. 27. Collection sites can be found here.

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