Health & Medicine

Got drugs? DEA take-back day offers a safe disposal option

Medication no longer needed or that have expired or otherwise require disposal can be taken to one of 45 Sacramento-area collection sites on Saturday, April 30, 2016, as part of the 11th annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
Medication no longer needed or that have expired or otherwise require disposal can be taken to one of 45 Sacramento-area collection sites on Saturday, April 30, 2016, as part of the 11th annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. MCT

This Saturday, Sacramento residents will have an opportunity to clear their homes of expired or unused medications that drug enforcement officials say pose a public health threat, particularly after the rash of recent overdoses from counterfeit painkillers.

During the 11th annual “national prescription drug take-back day,” 45 collection sites in the Sacramento area will provide safe disposal of pills, tablets and capsules. Most of the sites are at county health, sheriff’s and police offices. Community members can drop off any controlled or over-the-counter medications anonymously, with no questions asked. Collection sites cannot accept needles and liquids.

Prescription medications, particularly controlled substances with potent effects, can be a risk to people in the household who might abuse or distribute them, said John Martin, special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s San Francisco field division. He pointed to the recent rash of fentanyl overdoses in the Sacramento area as evidence of what can happen when powerful drugs are left around the house.

Since March 25, more than 50 people in the Sacramento area have overdosed from fentanyl-laced pills disguised as Norco, a common prescription painkiller. Many said they received the pills from a neighbor or family member.

“Most prescription drug abusers get their pills from family and friends, as we saw in this recent outbreak with the hydrocodone pills,” Martin said. “By participating in the take-back we can strengthen our communities and make our homes safer at the same time. It’s a way we can take action.”

Last year, Americans across the country turned in 350 tons of prescription drugs at more than 8,000 sites, according to the DEA. About 25,000 pounds of drugs were collected in Northern California – 10,000 pounds of which were dropped off in the Sacramento area, Martin said.

With 40 percent of Americans receiving four or more prescriptions a year, according to the American Pharmacists Association, bathroom shelves can quickly fill up with vials. The biggest reason pills get left around is because most people don’t know what to do with them, said Veneece Awad, director of the pharmacy technician program at Carrington College’s Sacramento campus.

Some people flush their drugs, which has raised questions about the environmental impact of medication in public water. Others throw them out, which can be unsafe for drug users, children and pets if not handled properly, she said. Leaving them in the cabinet can prove problematic for some seniors, who may take the wrong medication if there are too many drugs in the house.

If absolutely necessary, people can dispose of pills and capsules at home by mixing them with coffee grounds or kitty litter and placing them in a sealed bag or container before throwing them into the trash bin. Still, officials recommend that people bring their medications to the DEA for incineration.

“This is one of the biggest events that we’ve come up with to try to eliminate these teens and elderly patients who are drug abusing from having access,” Awad said. “If everyone can safely dispose, there won’t be many drugs around at home.”

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sacramento Police Department Public Safety Center, 5770 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento

Sacramento DEA, 4328 Watt Ave., Sacramento

Citrus Heights Police Department, 6315 Fountain Square Drive, Citrus Heights

To find more collection sites, visit dea.gov or call 800-882-9539

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