UT Nursing students’ research shows that drug disposal perplexes public
A 2008 Associated Press investigation across the United States revealed the presence of various pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, mood stabilizers and sex hormones in drinking water. Emily Maloney Bickle and Jennifer Markley, two University of Texas School of Nursing graduate students, assessed the Austin community in hopes of guiding future public education efforts regarding the proper disposal of unused pharmaceuticals.
Working with an ad hoc committee between the School of Nursing and the College of Pharmacy they asked Austin residents at five local Walgreens pharmacies to answer a short survey. The survey was also conducted by the city of Austin staff at the city’s Household Hazardous Waste drop-off site.
Bickle and Markley said results showed that most Austin residents (44 percent) put their medications directly into the trash, and 12 percent flushed medications down the toilet or sink. Only 2 percent of those surveyed reported mixing their unused medications with kitty litter or coffee grounds and then throwing them in the trash, which for noncontrolled medications is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-recommended method for disposal. To help prevent drug diversion, or the unauthorized re-use of the medicine, FDA recommends flushing controlled substances into the water system.
Results of the survey highlight the need for public education regarding the proper disposal methods of medications to protect the quality of drinking water, according to the students. This could be accomplished through public service announcements and education disseminated through primary health care providers and public health workers, they said.