Stony Brook University hosted a pharmaceutical take back effort on Wednesday, Nov. 13 to help the Stony Brook community safely dispose of old and unused pharmaceuticals using an “environmentally supportive” incineration process.
Organized by SBU Student Health, Wellness and Prevention Services and the Suffolk County Police Sheriff Department’s prescription drug take back program “Shed the Meds,” sheriff’s deputies and members of those organizations collected old medications and sunscreens at the Student Activities Center (SAC) lobby kiosk from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
At the end of the three hours, the Sheriff’s Department collected 82 pounds of old medications and waste to dispose. Last April, the same event disposed of 62 pounds of medication.
The event took place on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s biannual National Prescription Drug Takeback Day; the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. Takeback Day is an opportunity to safely dispose of drugs that may be used by other members in a household for abuse, according to their website. The last National Take Back Day on Oct. 26 collected 882,919 pounds of drugs across the country.
Supporting the event on location were members of the Stony Brook community, such as Suffolk County’s Fifth District Legislator Kara Hahn and the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Richard Gatteau. The event was sponsored by the Student Health Advisory Committee.
“The sheriff’s office disposes of the collected medications — put it in the box, no questions, [and] they dispose of it in an environmentally supportive way,” Kathleen Valerio, Stony Brook University Health Educator and event organizer, said.
Sheriff police cars were parked in front of the SAC to provide a safe trip back to the sheriff’s office, where everything collected is incinerated in a process which does not release carcinogens in the air, Valerio said.
Suffolk County sheriff’s deputies in attendance were unable to comment.
“This year, as we have in the last four collections, we are focused on raising awareness of the harm being done to our environment because of inappropriately disposed — not only over the counter pharmaceuticals — but also of products that contain ingredients that harm our environment,” Valerio said.
According to DisposeMyMeds.org, the pharmaceuticals detected in the environment could be impacting water, affecting drinking water and aquatic organisms. Valerio said the event is meant to help raise awareness to certain sunscreens that are currently on the market that contain two chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, that damage coral reefs and have negative effects on skin.
Suzanne Sciortino, a senior business major and Peer Health educator at CHILL, was on staff at the event to help collect pharmaceuticals with the Sheriff’s Department.
“I think [the collection is] important for the campus community and the outside community. Long Island is known for its opioid epidemic, so with any drug and we are plugging sunscreen too, it’s good to help the community realize there are ways to dispose of the medicine,” Sciortino said. ”It helps the students realize we take this issue seriously, and there’s ways they can get rid of what they have.”
According to the New York State County Opioid Quarterly Report, 641 deaths related to opioids or heroin overdoses were reported in 2018. Student Health Services Pharmacist, Edward Eschmann, said that part of the opioid epidemic could be a result of the use of prescription drugs after the intended medicinal purposes.
“Once you get past [the intended use], you shouldn’t be holding onto that medication for someone else to be going into your medicine cabinet,” Eschmann said. “We don’t want non-medical professionals giving their meds to other people, then they suddenly become the doctors. It’s important, we gotta get them off the street and work with your medical professional when you are taking drugs.”
In addition to events like these and “Shed the Meds,” the Food and Drug Administration’s website has information regarding their recommended process for drug disposal. The next campus pharmaceutical take back event is scheduled for April 22, 2020, according to Valerio.