Sheriff, DEA sponsor drug take-back program

Participants turned in more than 494 pounds of medication.
Heather Finn / Graphic Designer

The Boone County Sheriff’s Department, in conjunction with the Youth Community Coalition, collected nearly 500 pounds of unwanted prescription drugs as part of its biannual drug take-back event held Friday and Saturday.

During the event, citizens were able to return unused medications at eight locations across the county. The MU Student Center was one collection location, and MU police officers helped staff the site, according to a news release. Other collection locations around Columbia included Rock Bridge High School, Hickman High School and the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital.

This past weekend’s event was the sixth held by the sheriff’s department since 2010, and coincided with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s national take-back event. A prior event held in April 2012 yielded 504 pounds of medication, 10 pounds more than was collected last week, according to a previous news release.

The event accepted medications of all forms, including non-prescription drugs.

“We get everything you can imagine," Sheriff's Department Major Tom Reddin said. "Anything from over-the-counter cough medicine all the way up to the most potent prescription pain meds you can think of."

The program was enacted in part to encourage environmentally sustainable methods of disposing of unwanted medications.

“There’s a lot of questions in the community about what they can do with (the medications),” Reddin said. “It used to be that folks could just flush them down the toilet, but that’s not environmentally sound.”

In addition to addressing environmental concerns, the program also aims to combat prescription drug abuse by teenagers.

“By getting these meds out of medicine cabinets and closets, it keeps them out of the hands of those who use them for abusive purposes,” Reddin said. “This is an effort to get that excess unwanted medication and make it unavailable.”

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in Boone County and nationwide, Reddin said.

“Emergency room visits related to overdose situations from prescription substances are now outnumbering those from the abuse of illicit street drugs,” he said.

Although young people are the most frequent abusers of prescription drugs, the problem affects people in all age ranges and socioeconomic levels, Reddin said. In Columbia, 114 drug- and narcotics-related arrests have been made in the past year, according to Columbia Police Department records.

The sheriff's department will turn the collected drugs over to the DEA on Tuesday, and the DEA will oversee the destruction of the medications. The DEA typically incinerates the drugs.

The 494 pounds of medication collected include approximately 175,000 pills. Since the drug take-back collection began in Boone County in 2010, the sheriff’s office estimates it has collected more than 1,921 pounds of unwanted medications, or about 682,000 pills.

Recent events have yielded about 500 pounds of drugs per event, though earlier events averaged between 100 and 200 pounds.

“It’s a voluntary program," Reddin said. "People will come and drop (medicine) off, but they’re certainly not required to. It has become quite a popular program."

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