On Saturday, residents from across the city dropped off unwanted and outdated medications and sharps at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) to dispose of them safely.
Residents were able to conveniently drive up as volunteers assisted them with their unneeded items in this joint effort with the TTUHSC and Texas Panhandle Poison Center (TPPC).
Once the items were collected, a dedicated group of medical volunteers sorted through the medications to ensure all were sorted and disposed of properly.
TPPC Managing Director Jeanie Jaramillo-Stametz, who also is an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the TTUHSC Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy, spoke of the importance of helping get rid of these medications.
Jaramillo-Stametz says old medications become potential sources of poisoning to young children or may be accessed by teens experimenting with drugs. The medications can also be a hazard to adults and the elderly, as they increase the risk of choosing the wrong bottle or taking medications that are no longer required.
“‘Medication Cleanout’ is a proactive approach to safeguard our communities by providing an accessible and convenient way for people to dispose of these medications in a legal, environmentally sound and convenient manner,” Jaramillo-Stametz added.
In 2021, 46,992 medication-related poison exposures in children age 5 or younger were reported to poison centers; 72% of poison-related deaths reported to Texas poison centers resulted from exposure to prescription and/or over-the-counter medications.
Jaramillo-Stametz says the abuse of prescription medications continues to be a national epidemic. In 2021, 28,017 self-harm and/or suicidal gestures reported to Texas poison centers resulted from exposure to medications.
According to Jaramillo-Stametz, all medications received at the cleanout will have all identifying patient information marked off and all controlled substances separated.
“We want to protect people’s identity and information on the medications,” Jaramillo- Stametz said. “What is really nice is that we have all kinds of medical students getting the experience of working with each other and seeing the amount of medication that goes unused.”
She also stressed that, unlike many larger cities, Amarillo does not have an effective system to dispose of sharps, such as medication needles, and events like this give people an effective way to rid themselves of these items.
Jaramillo-Stametz spoke of the dangers of unused medicines sitting in a household.
She said that storage could have a significant amount of effect on the usefulness of drugs with the variance in temperatures. Many people do not realize that vitamins can also become problematic once the expiration date passes.
“As children get older, they are more likely to go to the medicine cabinet to experiment with drugs. We are keeping them safer by reducing access to these medications,” Jaramillo-Stametz added.
For people who could not take advantage of the “Medication Cleanout,” which happens about every six months, Jaramillo-Stametz gave some options to get rid of unwanted medications that are available in the community.
She said that many pharmacies in the area have medication disposal kiosks that can be used to drop off medications. Consult your local pharmacy to see if these options are available.
For any questions on medications or disposal of these items, go to https://www.medicationcleanout.com/.