Prescription drop-off program makes its way to Arenac pharmacies

By Jeff Patrus|Staff Writer
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ARENAC COUNTY — Local residents who no longer need their prescription drugs need not flush them down the toilet, thanks to a recently implemented program at three pharmacies in the county.

Rick Spies, owner of Pinny Pharmacy in Pinconning and Standish Pharmacy in Standish, said he started the program at his two pharmacies around the third week of December after being contacted by Chris Angel, president of the Great Lakes Clean Water Organization.

Angel said the organization was formed in January “with the express idea of organizing some safe and proper disposal methods” for unwanted prescription drugs.

“They wanted to get at least one drop-off point in each community (in northeast Michigan),” Spies said. He added that volunteers from the GLCWO are scheduled to drop by the pharmacies and empty the containers every two weeks. However, he added that if necessary, the pharmacy may contact the organization to arrange for the prescriptions to be picked up sooner.

Spies commended the members of the GLCWO for being sincerely concerned about improving the area’s water quality.

“They’re all volunteers,” he said. “They’re pretty genuine about it.”

As with Spies’ two area pharmacies, Greg Gasiciel, pharmacist at Pamida Pharmacy in Standish, said that the Yellow Jugs Old Drugs program also recently started at his pharmacy. He said volunteers from the GLCWO dropped off the jug at his pharmacy on Friday, Dec. 18.

“I don’t think anyone knows about it yet,” he said.

He said that the pharmacy cannot accept the following items for use in the program: controlled substances, hazardous materials, medical waste, aerosols, and disinfecting agents.

Angel said volunteers pick up the unwanted prescription drugs once every two months and take them to a state of Michigan-approved incinerator. He said he hopes to expand the Yellow Jug Old Drugs program beyond northeast Michigan.

“We plan on trying the program going in Macomb and Wayne counties, and we hope to get into each county in Michigan,” Angel said.

According to Angel, when the organization first got started, volunteers surveyed all the pharmacies in northeast Michigan, and started a pilot prescription drug program on May 8 with pharmacies in Alpena, Oscoda, and Tawas.

At least one northeast Michigan substance abuse treatment official said he thinks the program is a good idea.

“I think that unwanted prescription drugs are a significant problem,” said Dennis Priess, executive director of Northeast Michigan Substance Abuse Services in Gaylord. “Any effort to dispose of them or eliminate them in an appropriate way is something we’d be supportive of.”

Priess added that the number of people being treated at Northeast Michigan Substance Abuse Services because of addiction to prescription drugs “is growing exponentially.”

Those people who do not have access to a program such as the one at Pioneer Pharmacy still have other alternatives to flushing unwanted prescriptions down the toilet, Priess said. “If there is not a disposal site, incineration is the preferred method,” he said.

Priess added that another method to dispose of those drugs, especially for those people that take prescription drugs on a schedule, is to ground them up and mix them in with another item that is grounded up, such as coffee grounds or cat litter.

“It makes it virtually impossible for someone to retrieve those,” he said.

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