Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 3, 2013

Editorial: Drop-off boxes getting pills off streets

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Drop boxes that give residents a place to get rid of outdated or unneeded prescription drugs have proven their worth in just a few months.

Sheriff’s departments in Antrim, Benzie, Leelanau and Kalkaska counties kept their lobbies open on April 27 during a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said six pounds of prescription drugs were collected that day.

His department has collected more than 21 pounds of prescription pills in its drug drop box in less than two months.

Most sheriff departments in the region have drop-off boxes, and they’ve collected hundreds of pounds of mostly pills. The Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Department drop box has taken in 320 pounds of prescription drugs since it was installed in January.

Kalkaska County Sheriff Dave Israel said take-back events can bring in more than 20 pounds of pills in a single day. He said only pills are accepted and it’s helpful to bring them in plastic bags.

Hundreds of pounds translates into tens of thousands of pills of all kinds, including many that are abused by kids and adults alike. Prescription drug abuse has become a national crisis and the fastest-growing drug problem in the country.

Just dumping pills down the drain means antibiotics and other drugs find their way into groundwater or — in Traverse City — into west Grand Traverse Bay, where they can pose a hazard.

This is about as low-tech as drug-fighting efforts get, but it works. Take a look in your own medicine cabinet and look for old, outdated drugs that may have been sitting there for months or even years.

If you know an older adult who is on a regular drug regimen, ask them to check for drugs they no longer take or are too old to be effective. Check dates and drug names against a current list of their prescriptions. Or do it for them — with their permission, of course.

Prescription drugs are extremely powerful and can have profound effects. Tranquilizers and pain medications are notorious as recreational drugs. Oxycontin, a widely prescribed pain medication, is heavily abused and is often the target of pharmacy break-ins Yet there can be dozens of pills sitting in someone’s bathroom cabinet from an old prescription.

Clean out cupboards and medicine cabinets and get rid of prescriptions you no longer take or ones that are past their prime. Call your doctor if you have questions. Then take them to your sheriff’s department and they’ll to the rest.

A few minutes of effort can prevent a lot of heartache down the line.