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By Griffin Swartzell, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 04, 2019
Mike the Knight disposes of medication in a MedSafe Oct. 23, 2019, on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. These MedSafes allow anyone with access to Peterson to safely and securely dispose of unused, unwanted or expired medication year-round. (U.S. Air Force photo by Griffin Swartzell)
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day was on Saturday, Oct. 26, but those with access to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, don’t have to wait. They can dispose of their expired and unwanted medications at one of two MedSafe disposal boxes located in the 21st Medical Group’s main pharmacy waiting area and the satellite pharmacy between the commissary and base exchange.
“In order for any pharmacy to be able to take controlled medications back through the MedSafe, we have to register through the Drug Enforcement Agency as a collector,” says Lt Col. Mark Ballesteros, 21st Medical Support Squadron diagnostics and therapeutics flight commander. “We have modified our DEA registration to include that function as well. That allows us to set up these MedSafes.”
Some drugs can be thrown away or disposed by flushing, but it’s always safest to dispose of drugs in a MedSafe or through a drug take back program. Drugs with addictive potential like opioid painkillers, barbiturates and amphetamines can make them a liability both in the home and in unsecured garbage bins.
“The Environmental Protection Agency has given some guidance on proper medication disposal because of the potential concern for affecting the environment, specifically medications working their way into the water table, so it's advisable to keep that to a minimum,” says Ballesteros.
He adds that the Food and Drug Administration publishes a list of medicines that are recommended for disposal by flushing if take-back options aren’t available at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know/drug-disposal-flush-potentially-dangerous-medicine#FlushList.
With that said, there are some things that should not be disposed of in these MedSafes. Needles and sharps, for instance, require different precautions for safe handling. Ballesteros recommends using a sharps collection program, such as the one offered through El Paso County Household Hazardous Waste, which can be reached at 719-520-7878. Failing that, sharps can be disposed of in a retail sharps disposal container or heavy, puncture-proof plastic or metal vessels such as an empty bleach bottle or metal coffee can. Such containers should be marked as sharps or biohazard waste, firmly sealed and thrown in the trash, never recycled.
Additionally, the MedSafes are not approved for disposal of Schedule 1 controlled substances, such as heroin, cannabis and MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly).