By Jordyn Schara
What would you do if you discovered that your drinking water contained antibiotics, heart medications, psychiatric drugs and hormones from birth control pills?
The problem mentioned above is very real and has been happening in lakes, rivers and waterways across America. That is why I started WIP2D2, which stands for Wisconsin Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal. I discovered that most people are unsure of how to dispose of their unwanted and expired medications. They usually resort to flushing them down the toilet or the sink or just leaving them in their medicine cabinets. Each of these methods has devastating consequences.
When medications are flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink, they contaminate our groundwater, causing problems for humans and aquatic animals. If drugs are thrown out in the trash, they are accessible to children and pets and the medications can still get into our groundwater.
More people are now leaving their prescriptions in their medicine cabinets. This innocent act is fueling the newest drug problem among America’s teens – Prescription and Over-The-Counter (OTC) Drug Abuse. Teens are having “Pharm Parties” in which they mix all the medications that they have taken from their friends’ and relatives’ medicine cabinets and use them, not realizing the danger. In 2006, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs. Among 12 and 13-year-olds, prescription drugs are the drug of choice1. About 3.1 million people age 12 to 25 had used an OTC cough and cold medication to get high, and nearly 1 million had done so in the past year2. More people die from prescription drug abuse/misuse each year, than from heroine, cocaine and methamphetamine combined.
This has not been an easy project. I have been researching since January. After being told over and over by the DNR, EPA and local government that this is too big of a project and too difficult for a 14 year old to handle, I am proud to say that the first drug disposal event in my hometown of Reedsburg, WI was held on Saturday, September 12th and it was a monumental success! We collected over 440 pounds of drugs and also hosted a flu shot clinic, a free sharps disposal and a free mercury thermometer swap (the 1st 100 people with mercury thermometers were given free digital thermometers). The cost to dispose of household hazardous waste is $3/pound and I raised over $1,700 so far to cover these costs.
My goal is to make this project self-sustainable, by helping the City to purchase a permanent drop off box and obtaining funds to pay for the disposal costs year-round.
I have written letters to my state lawmakers asking for their assistance in making drug disposal much easier for consumers. Educating the public is also very important to me and I am sending packets of information to other municipalities that explain how to develop their own drug disposal projects.
Please help spread the word about the danger of prescription and OTC abuse and the proper disposal and security of these medications