UNION COUNTY — The opportunity to dispose of unwanted prescription medication on a weekday with no questions asked has proved so popular that the old mailbox used by the Union County Sheriff’s Office to collect the drugs has to be emptied every week.
For three years, the sheriff’s office participated in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Takeback event. The goal of the DEA program is to provide members of the public who, for whatever reason, may have prescription medication they have not used, to turn it in to participating law enforcement agencies for disposal in a safe, secure, more environmentally-sound manner. To encourage participation, no questions are asked by law enforcement personnel of those turning in the medication for disposal.
All the medication turned in during the events was disposed of in the “Drug Terminator,” an incinerator owned by the sheriff’s office. Incineration is considered a more environmentally-friendly method of disposing of unwanted prescription medication than including them in garbage to be sent to a landfill or flushing them down the toilet.
During the 2012 take back event, 65 pounds of prescription medication was turned in at locations for collection by the sheriff’s office including the Jonesville Police Department. Another 19 pounds was turned in at the Union Public Safety Department for a total of 84 collected from throughout the county.
After the event, Sheriff David Taylor said that the 65 pounds collected by his office was an increase over the previous year when 56 pounds were collected. He said that every year his office participated in the event the amount of prescription drugs turned in for collection and disposal had increased.
The sheriff’s office no longer participates in the DEA’s take back events, but has instead made every day the office is open a prescription drug take back day.
“We have participated in the drug take back programs sponsored by the DEA, but we’re no longer participating in that because we’re doing it every week,” Taylor said. “Our drug take back program is now ongoing and every day, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., all you have to do is bring it in, no questions asked.”
Anyone with unwanted prescription medication can bring it to the sheriff’s office in the basement of the Union County Courthouse and place it in the “Drug Drop Box” which sits in front of the counter.
While the amount of drugs turned in during the DEA events grew over the three years his office participated in it, Taylor said that the response by the public to his office’s ongoing take back program has been even more overwhelming. He said many of the drugs placed in the Drug Drop Box have been from families seeking to dispose of medication left over after a family member has died.
“A lot of times people who have family members who are deceased have a lot of medication left over and they call us and ask us what to do with it,” Taylor said. “At least one family a week with a deceased loved one who needs to dispose of unused medication brings it in. It’s really taken off.”
Taylor said that so much prescription medication is turned in that Chief Deputy Perry Haney has to clean out the Drug Drop Box every week.
As to whether or not the medication should be removed from its boxes, bottles or packs, Taylor said there is no need to do so. He said the medication can be left in its container and both will be disposed of by his office in the Drug Terminator in either the spring or the fall. Taylor said the medication is incinerated at those times of the year because the weather is cooler making it easier to be around the Drug Terminator which he said puts out an enormous amount of heat.
Taylor cautioned that the no questions asked policy applies only to prescription medication, not illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine. He said anyone who comes across illegal drugs like these should not bring them in but instead call 911 so that a deputy can be dispatched to take charge of them.
For more information on the Union County County Sheriff’s Office’s drug take back program call 864-429-1612.
For more information about the ELASTEC Drug Terminator, contact Jeremy Pretzsch, Elastec/American Marine Sales Manager.