CLARKS SUMMIT — Prescription drug abuse has quadrupled over the past 10 years and now results in more deaths than all other illegal street drugs combined, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.
Which is one reason why it is important for people to properly dispose of leftover and outdated medications. And why the Clarks Summit Police Department, the Lackawanna/Susquehanna Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs (LSODAP) and CVS Pharmacy work together to host Prescription Drug Take-Back Program collections.
“The goal of the program is to reduce access (to prescription drugs by people for whom they are not prescribed) and train people on how to dispose of the drugs properly,” said LSODAP Prevention Supervisor Michele Smith.
She added it also helps the environment, as acts such as flushing pills down the toilet can create environmental hazards.
“Sometimes people just throw them away, and that’s not a safe method either,” she said, explaining people often look through the garbage, seeking drugs.
So, if it isn’t safe to flush them, throw them in the trash or leave them lying around the house, how is one supposed to dispose of his or her expired drugs or leftover prescriptions belonging to a deceased family member?
That’s where this program comes in.
It “focuses on alleviating the health and safety concerns from the diversion and abuse of prescription medications by helping our communities properly dispose of unused prescription medications,” states the program’s website. “The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA), will work with local communities to provide grants that facilitate the installation of hundreds of secure and permanent prescription drug drop-off boxes installed throughout Pennsylvania.”
There is currently one stationary take-back location where people can drop off their unused prescription drugs in the Abingtons at the South Abington Township Police Department, 100 Shady Lane Road, Chinchilla. Information on other locations throughout the state can be found by entering a zip code or county name online at bit.ly/1bLAMQk.
Items accepted include prescription and over the counter solid medications, tablets and capsules and pet medications. Items not accepted include intravenous solutions, injectibles, syringes and needles, hydrogen peroxide, compressed cylinders or aerosols (such as asthma inhalers), lodine-containing medications, thermometers and alcohol and illegal drugs (such as marijuana, heroin and LSD).
In preparation for dropping them off at a take-back location, drugs must be sealed in a container such as the original bottle or a Ziploc bag and personal information removed or blotted out with a permanent marker.
In addition to the stationary locations, Prescription Drug Take-Back Days are held at various locations, overseen by local law enforcement.
According to Smith, the Clarks Summit Police Department, and especially Officer Eric Williams, was instrumental in bringing the program to the CVS Pharmacy in Clarks Summit, which now hosts occasional collection days. The next one is scheduled for around 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11.
According to Officer Robert Shedlock, the program gives the police an opportunity to interact with the public on a different level than what many are used to.
“It’s always nice to see a police officer who isn’t writing you a ticket or yelling at your son,” he said while manning a take-back table on Dec. 29 at CVS.
He added he enjoys the public service aspect of the task and the opportunities it presents to simply smile and talk to people.
Smith said the program would not be possible without the police assistance.
After they are collected, the drugs are transported by the police to the district attorney’s office. From there, the district attorney and attorney general’s offices take care of the disposal by incineration.
Educational programs and take-back events were also held in 2015 at the Abington Senior Center, Bedford Tower Apartments and Linden Crest Apartments. The organization is available to give educational PowerPoint presentations on the topic in 2016.
For more information about the program or how to schedule an educational presentation, call the LSODAP at 570-963-6820 or visit bit.ly/1SlhUsG.