Protecting Our Environment through Substance Use Prevention

Earth Day is here!

Now more than ever it is essential to recognize the importance of keeping our planet safe, healthy, and sustainable. 2020’s theme is climate action, as climate change continues to be a significant concern to the world-wide population.[1]

Today we see climate action happening through the work of scientists, policy-makers, activists, and environmental health organizations. While Access Health works to prevent substance use for local youth, one of our initiatives contributes directly to fighting climate change through pollution, a harmful environmental outcome.

A safe and healthy personal environment is equally important as our global wellness. According to the 2019 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, 5.7% of teens in Sagadahoc County report using medication without a prescription in the last 30 days. [2] With the help of our community partners and local law enforcement, Access Health created the *Big Green Box initiative, allowing community members to dispose of unwanted, expired, and unused medications in a safe and eco-friendly way at five local law enforcement agencies, 24/7. [3] In total, Access Health has helped collect over 12,700 pounds of medications over the last five years.

National Take-Back Days are bi-annual events created by the Drug Enforcement Administration aimed to provide safe, convenient, and responsible ways of disposing prescription medication.[4] Last year, our ongoing partnership resulted in over 1,600 pounds of unwanted and unused medications properly disposed of at our community sites throughout Sagadahoc County and Brunswick, 80% stemming directly from Big Green Box drop-offs alone. Access Health helps the environment, efforts are also helping the unused and unwanted medications stay out of the hands of teens.

Another way Access Health protects our environment is by supporting policies that limit the number of in-town locations where alcoholic beverages and cannabis are available for purchase. For instance, medical marijuana dispensary are not permitted within 500 feet of any school, child care/day care center, juvenile correctional facility, substance use rehabilitation program, or city park.[5] High outlet density is a proven environmental risk factor and research shows us that if a substance is seemingly easy to access, substance use among teens increases.[6]

*Due to COVD-19 the FDA currently does not recommend dropping medications off at disposal sites.

During this time you can still do your part in keeping our environment & youth safe by keeping your medications Up & Away.