The topic of last week’s , keeping medication away from kids, is a topic of growing importance not only among parents but also among the law enforcement and environmental communities.
While the first priority of Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows is to ensure that unused prescription drugs like Vicodin are destroyed before they can be misused, he said he’s also aware that simple disposal methods like flushing pills or throwing them away may result in water pollution.
“Dakota County has been talking about this issue for some time,” said Bellows.
Last fall, local police departments and the county teamed up with the Drug Enforcement Administration for the first time to host a "Prescription Drug Take-Back Day." Residents could drop off prescription, over-the-counter and illicit drugs with no questions asked.
From the three collection locations, including one in West St. Paul, the event collected six 55-gallon drums full of over-the-counter medications and roughly 100 pounds of controlled drugs such as Adderall and oxycodone.
While he said the county is interested in hosting another event sometime this year, nothing has been scheduled yet.
There is no regular location for prescription drug disposal in the county at this time. The Recycling Zone in Eagan briefly accepted cancer-treatment medications, but has recently stopped accepting those drugs.
One of the barriers to a regular drop-off location is access to a certified incinerator for disposal of the drugs, said Bellows. The closest certified incinerator is located in Illinois.
Sergeant Neil Garlock of the Mendota Heights Police Department said that prescription drug abuse isn’t a regular problem that the department deals with, but when it does, it’s usually in the form of a medical emergency. Residents found to have accidentally or intentionally misused medications do not fall into any particular age group, said Garlock.
Without access to a drop-off site, residents can still take precautions to ensure that leftover medication doesn’t get misused, confused or abused. Here are some tips promoted by the Federal Drug Administration:
—Do not flush prescriptions down the toilet or pour down a drain unless the packaging says to do so. Generally these directions are reserved for drugs that are particularly dangerous if used improperly.
—Remove medication from it’s packaging and destroy the label.
—Mix pills or liquids with something like kitty litter or coffee grounds to deter anyone from taking them out of the garbage.
—Once mixed, place in a disposable container like a sealed food storage bag or an empty plastic jar.
—Put the container in the trash.