Drop Off Old Medications at Duke Hospital March 20

Community members can drop off unused medications for proper disposal

Photo illustration by Bigstock.
Photo illustration by Bigstock.

Theresa Cromling has witnessed the effects of medication poisoning on families firsthand while working in Duke's Emergency Department as a nurse for 27 years.

She has seen young children admitted to the intensive care unit after finding pills in a purse or on a counter and eating them, thinking they were candy.

Operation Medicine Drop, a statewide initiative to prevent drug abuse and accidental poisoning, is coming to Duke University Hospital for the fourth year on March 20. Duke community members are invited to drop off their unused medications for proper disposal. The event also is organized by Duke Pharmacies, law enforcement officials and Safe Kids Durham County.

"I'm always happy to see people safely disposing of their medicines because from an ER standpoint, the unintentional poisonings is the one that sticks out for me," said Cromling, who also is the coordinator for Safe Kids Durham County. "It's not only unsuspecting children, it's teenagers that don't understand that popping someone else's pill is misuse and can cause a lot of harm. It's also the elderly who may not take medicines properly."

Last fall, more than 770,000 doses were collected at six Medicine Drop events in Durham County, which included a collection at Duke Hospital.

Duke Police crime prevention officer Eric Hester said the university helps coordinate the event through the Drug Enforcement Administration, and a police officer is stationed at each drop-off location. After collection, the State Bureau of Investigation will take the medications and incinerate them.

Duke pharmacy students also participate during the event by counting the number of dropped-off medications and trying to identify pills that aren't labeled.

"It's part of their education," Cromling said. "They get to use different phone apps and books to try and figure out what pill they're looking at."

Cromling and other volunteers will have a table outside of the Duke University Hospital cafeteria Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with Poison Control brochures and magnets, a display on how certain medications resemble candy, and a Duke pharmacist will be available to answer medication questions.