The Suffolk County sheriff’s office collected a little less than two boxes of prescription medications and used hypodermic needles during an outreach event Thursday morning at the Southampton Town Community Center in Hampton Bays.
The “Shed the Meds” event was the latest of a series of collections that have been held throughout the county since 2010, Suffolk County Sheriff Sergeant David Sheehan said. He explained that the purpose of these events is to allow people a safe option for disposing of medications that they no longer need or have expired, and want out of the reach of family members who might abuse them, particularly children.
He added that the sheriff’s department wants to provide people with a way to throw away their medicines in a more environmentally friendly manner than flushing them down the toilet.
“We all, for years, flushed our meds down the toilet—that was just standard procedure,” Sgt. Sheehan said. “But what we’ve found is that it ends up in our groundwater when we flush meds.”
The Suffolk County sheriff’s office incinerates all the materials it collects at these events, because it is the most environmentally sound way of disposing of them, Sgt. Sheehan said.
Although almost all the participants on Thursday were senior citizens, similar collections at other venues have attracted people of all ages and socioeconomic status to turn in their expired medications and used materials, he said. Deputy Sheriff Lenny Grauso said he’s worked events that have garnered more than 30 boxes worth of material.
Liz Dwyer, the senior citizen program supervisor at the Ponquogue Avenue center, said although there was not the turnout she had hoped for, she considers the event a good starting point. She explained that this is the first time the sheriff’s office approached the center about hosting such a collection, and that she hopes to do it again in the future if word can be spread earlier to encourage participation.
“There’s a lot of people who have old medications and they want them properly disposed of,” Ms. Dwyer said. “It’s a two-pronged purpose: It allows us to get rid of those drugs and educate the community.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration actually has a list of 31 medications that it recommends be flushed down the toilet once they are expired, including oxycontin, percocet and certain types of morphine. But Sgt. Sheehan said other drugs, such as birth control medicine, can have “measurable” impacts on groundwater if disposed of in that manner.
Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman was in attendance last Thursday as well to support the cause and speak with the senior citizens at the center. He said educational events such as this are beneficial to the community.
“There are safety concerns associated with flushing medicines down the toilet,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “So anything we can do to prevent that and protect the environment is a plus.”
Another “Shed the Meds” event will be held from 10 a.m. until noon on Thursday, August 15, at the Bridgehampton Senior Center on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.