Opioids and your drinking water: How you may be involuntarily consuming the drugs
Here in Oregon, health officials are scrambling for ways to deal with it, and in their research they've found opioids in places where anyone can be exposed to it -- your water.
Most people consume opioids for pain, and take them in pill form from a local pharmacy. But Dr. Patrick Luedtke says that millions of Oregonians are ingesting opioids in another way.
"People prescribe them, people use them and people metabolize them, and they end up in the water system," said Dr. Luedtke, a Senior Public Health Officer in Lane County.
It turns out that people who use opioids are passing drugs into our drinking water, either by urinating, or flushing unused drugs down the toilet.
"The water system doesn't completely clean it up, and we recycle that water into drinking water, and it's back in the same loop," said Dr. Luedtke. "I think any chemicals in our sewage and in our drinking water are of potential concern."
Researchers don't have enough data yet to see what they long-term affects are, but they also can't ignore it.
At the Oregon Toxicology Center, the director says at least they early data from new studies helps them gauge the growth of opioid use in our community.
"If you can measure opioids, the presence of opioids in the effluent in the wastewater treatment plants you might be able to understand the use and abuse prevalence in the community served by that treatment plant," said Fred Berman, Director of the Toxicology Information Center.
Is it enough to harm us? Researches say no, but it gives Public Health Officials information to create more sites where you can dispose of your pain killers after you don't need them anymore.
"We wish there were more take-back sites so pharmacies, police stations, that is typically what they are across the country," said Dr. Luedtke. "We don't have enough in Lane County, we need more so people would find it easy to do it the right way."
Lane County Public Health Officials announced last month that they would be reducing the amount of opioid prescriptions given to patients, and instead they will be giving out alternative options.