Xcel Energy Foundation | Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
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Xcel Energy Foundation Helps Amarillo Stay Clean

Thanks to a generous gift from the Xcel Energy Foundation, the Amarillo community is helping keep unused medications off the streets. The foundation gave $10,000 to support the Texas Panhandle Poison Center's Medication Cleanout events last year.

The center, managed by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center through its School of Pharmacy, was one of 40 nonprofits in the Panhandle to receive support. Managing Director Jeanie Jaramillo-Stametz, Pharm.D., (Pharmacy 2001), said the foundation's support helped with incineration expenses and supplies as well as marketing and volunteer support.

While unused medications in the home create a risk for poisonings, something most people understand, Jaramillo-Stametz said, teens and young adults target many of these same medications for experimentation and abuse.

"Studies have shown that those who abuse prescription medications for non-medical reasons often move on to abuse illicit drugs in the future. So they start with prescription medications that they feel are safe and gain confidence with the abuse. Then, they either become addicted or simply desire the high and seek an alternative. This shift to illicit drug use often leads to crime as they engage in activities to support their habits."

Jaramillo-Stametz said there is also an environmental safety component to Medication Cleanout because consumers are often unsure how to dispose of unused medications or they may not fully understand the consequences of inappropriate disposal. This uncertainty may lead to old and unwanted medications being flushed and washed down a drain or tossed into the trash.

"Most current wastewater treatment technologies do not adequately filter pharmaceuticals, so flushing medications or rinsing them down the drain results in contamination," Jaramillo-Stametz explained. "Medications that are trashed, in most case, find their way to the landfill. While landfill liners are required to meet minimum standards, over time, leachate can occur and also contaminate not only underground water supplies but also soil."

Jaramillo-Stametz said surveys indicate that approximately 11 percent of participants would have flushed or washed their medications down the drain and an additional 26 percent said they would have thrown their medications in the trash if they were unable to bring them to Medication Cleanout. The surveys also indicate that 54 percent of participants would have simply kept their medications had Medication Cleanout not been available.

[This article, written by Mark Hendricks, communications specialist, previously published in the Fall 2015 issue of PharmNews. Republished with permission.]