An increasing number of pharmacies in Northern Michigan are asking customers to return many types of unused and expired medications.
Pharmacists have always asked people to get rid of old medications, which avoids confusion and keeps drugs out of the hands of youngsters.
But now drugs are being found in Lake Michigan, and in drinking water.
"Flushing down the toilet or throwing in your trash was acceptable until we understood that that wasn't really solving the problem," says Jake Emling with Prescription Services Pharmacy in Petoskey. "It was just an out-of-sight out-of-mind scenario."
Emling's pharmacy now collects old drugs for incineration through the "Yellow Jug Project," as do pharmacies in Traverse City, Bellaire, and throughout the region.
But the program cannot accept narcotics and other addictive drugs, and so it can't help with another problem: the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
"That has become a problem nationwide and it really, really needs to be addressed. And we're getting close," he says.
Emling says only law enforcement officials can collect narcotics. For now, people may need to dissolve pills in water, and scatter them in the trash.