Drop off unwanted drugs or meds

By Carrie Unpingco

Getting rid of unwanted drugs just got a whole lot easier in San Juan County. You can now drop off used and unused medications at county-wide locations. On Lopez, the pharmacy is due to move in six to eight weeks, and so the drop box is currently situated at the Sheriff’s office. Pharmacy owner Rick McCoy said that when the pharmacy relocates to its new address of 352 Lopez Rd., a drop box will be installed.

“It’s a great idea,” McCoy said of the initiative “For many years the way people took care of their medications was by throwing them in the dump or flushing them… getting them out of circulation is a great idea.”

Each box will also display a list of what you can and cannot discard, along with specific instructions on disposal.

It’s important to first remove pills and medications from their containers and place them in a plastic baggie.

You can mix all your meds in the same bag and simply drop them in the box.

Empty bottles or other packaging needs to be discarded at home. Remove labels to protect your privacy.

The use of drop boxes has been approved by the state pharmacy board and the DEA is in charge of proper disposal.

It’s not easy to put something like this into effect.

About two years ago Brian Rader, county pollution prevention specialist, brought this idea to the surface.

He felt that medications improperly being disposed of were an environmental hazard.

“Our waste-water treatment plants are designed to treat biological waste only,” Rader said. “These pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs are not treated in these plants. Instead, they simply pass through, untreated, into receiving water bodies, like our harbors and bays.”

Once it was recognized that improper disposal was really affecting our water and, most importantly, our children, the idea that something needed to be done took off.

Fortunately, a Methamphetamine Initiative Grant was awarded to the sheriff’s department, in conjunction with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. The boxes could be purchased because they are placed at the sheriff department’s substations. The grant also funded officer overtime for meth-related cases as well as officer education. To buy the boxes and to install them cost about $5,000.

This could not have been done without the hard work of many people, or without the cooperation of our local pharmacies. Special thanks goes out to Cara Gresham, who coordinated last year’s monthly take-back programs as an intern for the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition, and to Rick Hughes, owner of Ray’s Pharmacy on Orcas, who helped write the protocol that made this happen.

Our communities are proactive — making sure good ideas are acted on.

To find out more about the 2011 Secure Medicine Take Back Bill Policy Overview visit: www.TakeBackYourMeds.org.Find local Voices for Health Blog online at: blogs.sanjuanjournal.com/voicesforhealth.