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Medication Program Hits Half-Ton Milestone

In Sept. 2018, Boulder Community Health’s Foothills Hospital became an official location for community members to safely dispose of expired or unused medications. BCH has now collected more than 1,000 pounds of home medications – an average of 100 pounds per month.

The collection receptacle, located in the Emergency Department waiting area at Foothills Hospital, is available for anyone to use to dispose of expired or unused household medications 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The program helps curb the improper disposal of medications and keeps prescriptions and controlled substances from being taken by someone for whom they were not prescribed. Prescription medications are the most commonly abused drugs for 12-and 13-year-olds, while 50 percent of drug abusers obtain these medications from family and friends.

As an independent, community-based health care organization, BCH began participating in the Colorado Household Medication Take-Back Program in response to requests from community members. Many people were unsure of how to properly dispose of medications, which can lead to medications and controlled substances ending up in landfills or water supplies. BCH is listed as a drop-off site with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Specific Disposal Requirements

The medication take-back program is targeted at specific medications and substances which may be disposed of in the receptacle.

Medications and substances which CAN be disposed of include:

  • Prescription medications
  • Prescribed controlled substances (Vicodin, OxyContin, Adderall, Ritalin)
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Liquid medications (non-leaking containers)
  • Vitamins
  • Pet medications

Other medications and substances which CANNOT be accepted for disposal include:

  • Marijuana
  • DEA Schedule I drugs (heroin, LSD, ecstasy)
  • Needles, syringes and other sharps
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Medication waste
  • Thermometers

The CDPHE and DEA both recommend blacking out any personal information on medication containers before disposing in the collection receptacle. We encourage conserving space in the receptacle by pouring your pills or capsules in a zip-top bag and then separately recycling the original containers.

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Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

The medication take-back program is one of many ways in which BCH is addressing the opioid epidemic. The rate at which potent drugs such as codeine and fentanyl are prescribed has quadrupled since 1999. Opioids, both prescription and illegal, have become the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. More people now die nationally of opioid overdoses than die in car crashes.

From June through November 2017, BCH’s Foothills Hospital Emergency Department (ED) was invited to participate in a Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) initiative intended to combat this public health crisis by reducing the use of opioid medications in hospital emergency departments. BCH was chosen because our ED is a recognized leader in responsible pain management.

During the Colorado Opioid Safety Pilot, ED staff utilized new treatment guidelines developed by the Colorado Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians that included specific recommendations for using alternatives to opioids (ALTOS) as the first option for treating pain rather than opioids. Examples of ALTOs include familiar medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen and lidocaine. When medically appropriate, these ALTOs replaced commonly prescribed opioids such as codeine, morphine and fentanyl. During the study period from June through November 2017, the use of ALTOs increased 37 percent and the Foothills ED achieved a 32.9 percent reduction in opioid use compared to the same period in 2016.

Although the Colorado Opioid Safety Pilot has concluded, BCH facilities continue to use the new guidelines to treat pain successfully. We’ve long recognized that preventing harm is as important as improving health. BCH has partnered with the City of Boulder, Boulder County Public Health and CDPHE to prevent the spread of opioid abuse and treat opioid dependence through reducing new opioid prescriptions by offering non-opioid medications in the ER, inpatient and ambulatory settings.

BCH’s Center for Mind Body Medicine treats patients suffering from debilitating health problems – chronic back, neck or pelvic pain, migraines and other hard-to-treat medical conditions – that haven’t responded to traditional medical therapies. This mind-body clinic will teach patients how to manage their chronic pain using alternative strategies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness meditation and non-opioid medications.