Getting rid of old prescription pills not only cleans the cabinet, it can keep those substances from falling into the wrong hands.
On Saturday, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department will host a drug take-back day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in recognition of the national effort by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
SLTPD Sgt. Josh Adler coordinates the event, which typically takes place twice a year, and said the department collects its fair share of prescription drugs each time.
“We collect and take them to DEA in Sacramento,” Adler said. “The last one we did I think we pulled in 40 pounds worth of pills, and that’s a lot. Sometimes we’re doing as much as larger communities.”
The SLTPD started its prescription drug take-back days in 2010, following a national proclamation headed by the DEA. Adler said pills that are discarded improperly can end up being sold illegally or wind up in the possession of minors.
“A lot of stuff gets diverted into the black market, and we take all that stuff and get rid of it,” Adler said. “I think it helps with the elimination of that diversion. They also dump the drugs in the toilets, and, with this program, we’re not dumping the pills in our water system.”
Adler said he doesn’t recall any recent overdoses on prescription pills, but said he has seen people develop addictions to oxycodone and spiral into heroin and severe opiate dependence.
Between 2004 and 2005, when the department conducted undercover operations in schools, Adler said police collected a handful of illegal drugs, but the most common and prolific product sold was prescription drugs.
“A major thing they were finding was prescription pills, coming off parents’ prescriptions,” he said, acknowledging the operations happened almost a decade ago. “I suspect things haven’t changed that much.”
The national initiative was started from the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which outlines the need for the take-back programs.
The act, citing the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2009 National Prescription Drug Threat Assessment, stated unintentional overdose deaths involving prescription opioids had increased twofold from 2001 to 2010.
According to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration fact sheet, prescription drugs can also be disposed of in a safe manner without giving them to local authorities.
“Take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter,” an FDA report stated. “The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.”
The South Lake Tahoe event is free and drugs can be dropped off anonymously. Adler said the department will not take needles or illegal drugs.