Dennis Wiggins, DisposeRx co-founder, on the responsibility for safe and proper drug disposal~
“The environmental degradation of our water supply in the environment will last generations and it will have impact on our children and our children’s children. . . As citizens, individually and collectively, we’re responsible for our own actions. We must responsibly dispose of drugs and over the counter medication, not by throwing it or not by flushing it but by using a product like ours or some of the other products that are on the market.”
Brian Wilson: Addiction. Crime. Overdose and death. In the wake of the opioid crisis these are the topics you’ve seen splashed across the headlines all over the country. but there’s another headline below the fold one that you may not hear scream from the cable outlets or see plastered on the internet websites. It’s the toll that the over prescribing of prescription drugs is having on our environment. Co-founder of DisposeRx, Dennis Wiggins, sat down to discuss some surprising statistics and to talk about how dire the situation has become in this world that we all share.
Dennis Wiggins on the Opioid Crisis and Contamination of Environment Due to Improper Drug Disposal
Dennis Wiggins: Dr. John Holaday, founded the company and contacted several individuals. I was one of them because we had a personal contact through our children going to the same engineering school. We launched the company, and the initial focus was in terms of commercial sales to pharmaceuticals to address the opioid issues, but there’s a second area, which is very important to me personally, and that is cleaning up the environment.
Two of the biggest problems this country faces is the opioid crisis, and this product addresses it by removing excess product, and the second one is the contamination of the environment in the water supply. This is a visceral issue that effects the water that you drink, the water I drink, the water our children drink, the water that our grandchildren drink. We’ve seen from Flint, Michigan, when you destroy the water supply for the public, you literally tear the fabric of society, and this is an issue that we have to address sooner than later. It’s that critical.
Brian Wilson: So precious water, clean water, a passion of yours.
Dennis Wiggins: Correct.
Brian Wilson: Most people say, “I’ve got these opioids. I have to get rid of them.” The quickest, easiest solution is, “I’m just going to flush them down the toilet,” and that has a tremendously negative impact on our environment.
Dennis Wiggins: That is absolutely correct. We have to address how we dispose of medication. It’s as important as going to the doctor and obtaining a prescription for medication. For a long time, there’s been no federal agency that addressed this issue. Surprisingly, in 2007, in the 21st century, the FDA said, “We should dispose of them by mixing them with coffee grinds, with saw dust, with kitty litter,” and in one case, even dirt and then tossing them.
The problem with that is the underlying drugs are not being addressed, and the product that Dr. Holaday and the team invented destroys that drug through crosslinking polymers and makes it safer disposal in the household trash, and the other thing, flushing it down the toilet is problem. Why? Because over time, landfills have rain, and that leeches into our ground water, and that is a serious problem.
Brian Wilson: All right, so give me some statistics. Just how serious is this problem, right now?
Improper Drug Disposal – Surprising Statistics Show Negative Impact on Environment
Dennis Wiggins: In 2008, 48% of Americans were taking at least one prescription drug. In 2013, according to a study by the Mayo Clinic, 70% of Americans now take at least one prescription drug daily.
Brian Wilson: That’s, by the way, an amazing statistic. So, we’ve got a lot of drugs that needed proper disposing.
Dennis Wiggins: Correct. In addition, most recent statistics are 4.2 billion prescriptions to Americans every year. In addition to that, over the counter medications approximately track that, so we’re talking roughly 10 billion types of medicine, prescriptions and over the counter, that must be properly disposed of because if we do not, we are endangering the water supply.
In 1999/2000, US geological survey studied Americans lakes, streams, rivers and aquifers and the ground water, and they found low level of pharmaceutical contaminants in the water. More recently, there was a study done where there was measurable amounts of pharmaceutical drugs in the drinking water of 41 million Americans. That’s inconceivable and it’s something the Congress must address.
Brian Wilson: So, there you have an example of just how serious the problem is, not just with opioids, which is the focus of this series of reports, but with all kinds of drugs that are finding their way into our water supply.
Dennis Wiggins: Absolutely. There is something called product stewardship, the idea that from the origination of a product to its end use, it should be treated in an environmentally safe way. There’s an impact right now on wildlife. For example, CPS in May or June, 2018, did a report on mussels in the Seattle Sound and found that they had oxycodone in them. The advantage for mussels is they do not metabolize the drugs. Fish, unfortunately are not so lucky. Trace amounts of chemicals will stop minnows from schooling and, hence, they’re subject to being attacked by other fish, and in Stony Brook University up in Long Island, Jamaica Bay, the ratio of male to female flounders has gone completely haywire. It’s now 10 to 1 females to every male because of various drugs impacting the fish.
Announcer: You’re listening to Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope. More when we return.
[Begin Commercial] Three years ago, you fell down the stairs and ended up with a fractured ankle. OxyContin 10mg. Sometimes you need something to help you sleep, and even though they’re expired they still work. Ambien 5 mg. Last summer you finally broke down and had your wisdom teeth extracted. Percocet 2.5 mg.
You never threw them out, so they sit inside your medicine cabinet posing a risk to you, those around you and anyone who enters your home. Today going through medicine cabinets searching for drugs is done by people of all ages and backgrounds. In fact, over 70% of new opioid addictions begin in a home medicine cabinet. If storing unused and expired medications puts people at risk of accidental poisoning, addiction and death. Why have them there at all?
We invite you to join the growing number of Americans who have pledged to clean out their medicine cabinets with DisposeRx. Simple and safe, DisposeRx is an environmentally friendly and immediate at home drug disposal solution. No more waiting for a take back event or driving to a kiosk. With DisposeRx consumers are now empowered to break the cycle of addiction and death that begins in the home medicine cabinet. Learn more at DisposeRx.com. Available online at Walmart.com.[End Commercial]
Brian Wilson: Let’s say you don’t have a concern about opioids in your life. You should have a concern about the environment and the water tables, and how they impact wildlife, how that comes back to us through our food chain. All of those things have a direct impact on our lives. Even if you don’t have an opioid concern, you should be concerned about the environment.
Citizens Responsibility to Properly Dispose of Drugs
Dennis Wiggins: Brian, you hit the nail precisely on the head. The opioid crisis hopefully ends in the foreseeable future, but the environmental degradation of our water supply in the environment will last generations and it will have impact on our children and our children’s children.
I think that cartoon from the 70’s, I think Pogo, who said, “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.” As citizens, individually and collectively, we’re responsible for our own actions. We must responsibly dispose of drugs and over the counter medication, not by throwing it or not by flushing it but by using a product like ours or some of the other products that are on the market.
The second thing is that water companies should reach out to their customer base and try offering them products to remove the drugs that are sitting in 45% of American home medicine cabinets, because if it’s removed out of the medicine cabinet, it’s less likely to go into the water supply.
The third thing is, the citizens, every one of us should contact the water company and say, “I’ve learned about pharmaceuticals in our water. What is the standard with the water that I drink?”
Then, the last one, and this is important, and it should be done now, if we take a parallel thought towards childproof caps in 1970, which in two years reduced the incident of childhood deaths by 45%, if we look back to seat belts, which were mandated in 1968 and cut the number of deaths, what we need to do as a populous is let our legislators know, “This is an issue that is not going away and touches every single American.” There’s three things that we should ask them to do. Number one is monitor pharmaceutical drugs in our water supply. That is not being done currently.
Brian Wilson: In other words, we sometimes don’t even know what’s in our water. We’re drinking water, and we have no idea if there’s pharmaceuticals in it or not.
Solutions to Environmental Contamination Due to Improper Drug Disposal
Dennis Wiggins: That is absolutely correct. I talked to one of the big water engineers for the southeast of this country that puts in plants all over, multi states, and he said no water utility or corporation is going to put in something not mandated by law.
The second thing that we have to address is, we have to find out the impact of long-term low levels of pharmaceuticals. We do not know the answer, but that’s a simple thing to fund and get answers. Then, the final one is, we should have minimum federal standards in terms of the quality of the water that people drink.
For those who have studied economics, it’s a classic case of something known as an externality. It’s outside the cost of the marketplace, and so it must be by fiat addressed. It’s a form of pollution that we started addressing in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and this is an issue that we must address going forward. I’m very passionate about this because it effects everyone in this room, everyone in this city, everyone in this country.
Brian Wilson: You work with DisposeRx. You’re a co-founder of the company. This is the solution to the problem that you’ve spent so much time describing. We’ve got a problem. It’s not getting better. It’s going to get worse unless something intervenes, and you’ve got a product that can fix it.
Dennis Wiggins: It’s an at-home solution. 89% of individuals are looking for an at-home solution to dispose of medication, and so what we have is the most efficacious product that’s inexpensive. We dispose of tires, we pay $5 a tire. We change the oil in our car, we pay … I just paid, I think it was 6.95, and paint, you now have to do a special thing, but we can throw medication in the trash. Not to spend $1, $1.50 to save lives, to prevent the pollution and contamination of our environment and our drinking water simply does not make sense.
Brian Wilson: Dennis, you’re very passionate about this, but what is it personally that motivates you to be so concerned about this issue?
Dennis Wiggins: Steve Jobs said we should all strive to put a dent in the fabric of the universe. Personally, the environment, I always try to leave an area better than when I arrived. I have children, and hopefully maybe grandchildren down the way. Every person in our generation of boomers has an obligation to leave this country and the environment in a better situation than when we found it.
Brian Wilson: Maybe you haven’t been effected by the opioid crisis. Maybe you’re healthy enough not even to need prescription medications. But there is something we all need and that’s a clean healthy environment. Do your part for society and do your part for the environment visit DisposeRx.com Find out just how easy can be to dispose of prescription medications today at DisposeRx.com
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope. Subscribe today where you get your podcast or visit opioids-hiddendangers-newhope.com for more information. This presentation is underwritten by DisposeRx.