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Health, Science and Environment

Medication disposal program designed to combat opioid crisis

Tops to prescription bottles are pictured inside the Wal-Mart pharmacy.

When expired or unwanted medication is tossed in the trash or dumped down the drain, officials say it can damage the environment and lead to unsafe drug use.

Now, a decade-old prescription disposal program has kept nearly four tons of medication off the street and out of the great lakes.

Part of the COVID-19 aftermath was a spike in opioid addiction, according to Michigan Pharmacists Association Director of Government Affairs, Brian Sapita.

Promoting the importance of safe drug disposal could help to ensure a safer household, and it's been a central goal of the collection program.

"Anything we can do to take those opioids off of the streets, out of the households where they are easily accessible to people, to children, we consider that a win,” Sapita said.

When it comes to protecting Michigan waterways, Sapita said there hasn't been a formal study on the programs impact, but its existence alone is helpful to the environment.

"Any time you're taking medications and disposing of them properly and not setting them down the sink, that's got to be a positive for our environment," he said.

The collection event itself takes place annually in Lansing. This year, it was hosted on Capitol lawn from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. People from across the state were encouraged to attend with pharmaceuticals in tow.

After collection is complete, the medication is taken to another location to be incinerated.

Hosting a collection event brings attention to the issue at hand, but proper disposal is available at local pharmacies throughout the state year-round.

Local drop-off sites can be found by entering a zip code at Michigan.gov/egleDrugDisposal.