Boone County collects 505 pounds of unused prescription drugs

Monday, October 31, 2011 | 4:43 p.m. CDT; updated 8:34 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 31, 2011

COLUMBIA — Unused prescription drugs were collected Wednesday and Thursday at various locations in Ashland, Columbia, Hallsville, Sturgeon and Centralia as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Prescription Take Back effort.

The event, which began in June 2010 in Boone County, is held biannually in order "to get rid of prescriptions to make sure they don't end up in the wrong hands and that they get properly disposed of," said Tom Reddin, a major in the Boone County Sheriff's Department.

Don't flush those pills!

If you missed the county's prescription drug collection, don't flush your pills. Doing so could cause trace amounts of the medication to taint drinking water and might pose a risk to others, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources offers several solutions for disposing of household pharmaceutical waste:

Solid Medications 

  • Remove from the original container and put the contents into a hard plastic container such as a laundry detergent bottle.
  • Add a small amount of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola or Dr. Pepper to dissolve the medicine.
  • Once dissolved, add a thickening material such as cat litter, flour, salt, charcoal or coffee grounds. Nontoxic powdered spice such as turmeric or mustard may be added to discourage wildlife or young children from trying to eat the resulting material.
  • Recap and seal the container with duct tape.
  • Place it in the trash just prior to pick-up. 

Liquid Medications

  • Remove from the original container and put the contents into a hard plastic container such as a laundry detergent bottle.
  • Add a thickening material such as cat litter, flour, salt, charcoal or coffee grounds. Nontoxic powdered spice such as turmeric or mustard may be added to discourage wildlife or young children from trying to eat the resulting material.
  • Recap and seal the new container with duct tape.
  • Place it in the trash just prior to pick-up.

Blister Packages

(Foil-wrapped pill containers and patches)

  • Keep these items in their original packaging.
  • Wrap the pack with a thick tape such as duct tape.
  • Place the pack into a hard plastic container such as a laundry detergent bottle.
  • Seal the container and place in the trash just prior to pick-up.

For more details about disposing of unused prescription medications, including FAQ and a list of medications you should flush, visit the FDA's website.

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Previously, there wasn't a safe and easy way to dispose of the prescription drugs, he said.

"The big thing used to be to flush them down the toilet," Reddin said. "That's not an environmentally sound practice."

This year, the sheriff's department worked with the Youth Community Coalition to collect more than 505 pounds of prescription drugs, according to a media release. Those drugs were delivered to the sheriff's department on Monday and then passed along to the DEA to incinerate, Reddin said.

The sheriff's department estimates that this amounts to more than 180,000 pills — nearly three times as many pills as were collected during April's event, and approximately four times as many pills as were collected during the county's first take back event in June 2010.

Reddin said the sheriff's department and the youth coalition have done a great deal of promotion, and that he thinks that has been a large factor in the vast increase in the amount of medication being turned in.

"I think there's increased awareness," he said, adding that Ryan Worley of the youth coalition did a "phenomenal" job of getting the word out on the take back event.

Emergency room visits for prescription drug overdoses exceed those involving illicit street drugs, and have for a few years, Reddin said.

"Currently we know that over 500 pounds of drugs are not falling into the wrong hands because they're being disposed," Reddin said. "That is a victory."

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