Written By: Larissa Nguy and Payal Patel, Third-Year Student Pharmacists
Each year, student pharmacists from Generation Rx in the American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) at the School of Pharmacy partner with law enforcement officials to establish collection sites for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Drug Take-Back Day initiative. This national campaign offers members of the local community an opportunity to dispose of unwanted, unused, or expired medications that might otherwise have remained in the home, posing a great danger to families and the environment and potentially leading to the misuse or abuse of those drugs.
Cleaning Out Medicine Cabinets in Baltimore
Oct. 28 marked the 14th official Drug Take-Back Day sponsored by the DEA. In an effort to give community members more time to clean out their medicine cabinets, student pharmacists at the School’s Baltimore campus collaborated with the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Police Force to set up a collection site at the SMC Campus Center on Oct. 25 and Oct. 28. Faculty, staff, students, and members of the local community were invited to turn in their unused or expired medication for safe disposal.
In addition to collecting medications, student pharmacists staffing the collection site had an opportunity to educate the public about medication safety and how to properly dispose of medications at home. They explained how disposing of antibiotics down the toilet and/or other drain can increase the severity of antibiotic resistance, and how disposing of birth control pills in the trash or in the toilet and/or drain can negatively affect the aquatic environment.
At the conclusion of Drug Take-Back Day on Oct. 28, student pharmacists in Baltimore had successfully collected 46 pounds of expired and unused prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
Serving the Community in Shady Grove
Given the growing opioid epidemic, a large, independent senior living community within walking distance from campus, and local pharmacies unable to accept unused and expired medications, the student pharmacists in Generation Rx at the School’s Shady Grove campus in Rockville also saw a need to provide a safe, convenient disposal site for the community.
Student pharmacists at Shady Grove assisted the Rockville City Police with an expansion of the national Drug Take-Back initiative by hosting a second Drug Take-Back Day at the Universities at Shady Grove on Oct. 26. For local community members unable to make it to the national Drug Take-Back Day on Oct. 28, this event provided another opportunity for safe disposal. In addition, students chose to host the event in Lot 5, which allowed community members to drive through and drop off medications with ease.
Local pharmacies that helped promote the event as well as the individuals who participated expressed their gratitude to us for hosting an event so close to home. Several students and members of the local community stopped by the event, resulting in the collection of 30 pounds of unused and expired medications – a 10-pound increase from Shady Grove’s first Drug Take-Back Day event in April 2017.
Increasing Our Impact in the Future
Though the Baltimore campus has hosted its Drug Take-Back Day event for several years and the Shady Grove campus is only beginning to “test the waters” with its initiative, student pharmacists at both campuses are excited to see how these events continue to grow and evolve in the future. We enjoy having this unique opportunity to apply the lessons that we learn in the classroom to help individuals across the state of Maryland understand the importance of safely disposing of their unused and expired medications, and to provide a convenient collection site for them to participate in this national event.