COLUMBIA — Community members brought in almost 650 pounds of prescription drugs for safe disposal last week — 139 pounds more than the record set at a similar event last year.
There were eight collection sites for Boone County’s seventh Prescription Drug Take Back event Friday and Saturday. Organizers estimated that 229,000 pills were brought in.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Department and Youth Community Coalition sponsored the biannual collection, which coincided with the Drug Enforcement Administration-sponsored National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
The event provides a safe and environmentally conscious way for the community to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs, said Maj. Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.
“This has been a longstanding problem,” Reddin said. “It used to be common to flush pills down the toilet, but we now know that’s not good for the environment.”
Residue of drugs have been found in some drinking water supplies and in bodies of water. But the main way that drug residue finds its way into the water supply is through urine, according to the Federal Drug Administration.
The event also helps to keep prescription tablets away from people who are prone to abusing the pills. Teenage prescription drug abuse is responsible for more overdoses than abuse of illicit drugs, he said.
Youth Community Coalition volunteers and law enforcement officers from Ashland, Centralia, Columbia, Hallsville, Sturgeon and MU Police managed the collection sites during the two-day event.
All medications collected will be given to the DEA for incineration.
“Pharmacies generally can’t take the excess back,” Reddin said. “They don’t have the means to dispose of them, and certain rules may not allow them to.”
The numbers of safely disposed pills is rising. Almost 43,000 pills were collected at the first event in June 2010, a fraction of last weekend's haul. Reddin said he thinks awareness of the service might be getting out to more people through the advertising efforts of the Youth Community Coalition and the Sheriff's Department.
It is estimated that nearly 2,569 pounds of unwanted or expired medications — close to 911,000 pills — have been collected in Boone County since June 2010.