Drop-off aim: Toss old drugs safely

GREENFIELD — Amid a countywide effort to crack down on drug abusers, Hancock County law enforcement officials are encouraging community members to dispose of their unused or expired prescription drugs in a safe way before they fall into the wrong hands.

Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse (NASA) will hold a drug drop-off event this month at a local pharmacy, where residents can hand over the prescriptions clogging their medicine cabinets to have them disposed of properly.

NASA will collect old medications from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 24 at Medicap Pharmacy, 1588 N. State St., Greenfield.

The October event comes on the heels of county law enforcement effecting a crackdown on drug users. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and Greenfield Police Department recently appointed detectives who will handle only narcotic drug investigations, including those that involve prescription medications.

By engaging the community in collections of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, officials have a better chance of keeping the medications away from curious teenagers, young children and addicts, officials said.

Prescription medications are some of the most commonly abused drugs in the United State, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Medications like hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone led to nearly 16,000 deaths in the United States in 2013, national statistics show.

The highly addictive nature of these painkillers often leads addicts to use other serious drugs; those addicted to prescription painkillers are 40 times more likely to use heroin, the CDC says.

NASA has been conducting drug drop-off events since October 2011, and the group has collected nearly three tons of medications in that time, said Tim Retherford, the organization’s executive director.

Use and abuse of these types of drugs often leads to other crimes, and proper disposal keeps prescription medications off the streets, said Maj. Brad Burkhart, the sheriff’s department’s chief deputy.

Gone are the days when robbers entered home or vehicles looking only for valuable property; the sheriff’s department regularly handles reports of robberies in which the suspects are searching for prescription drugs to steal, Burkhart said.

The accessibility of medications is often what makes them the most dangerous, said Sgt. Christine Rapp, the Hancock County sheriff’s D.A.R.E. officer.

Rapp often talks with students about the right and wrong ways to use medications, but many people don’t see the harm in taking or sharing habit-forming painkillers, she said.

Any visitor, including children and teens, can swipe unused pills from bathroom and kitchen cabinets without being noticed, she said.

Each drop-off yields a few hundred pounds of prescriptions and gives NASA officials a chance to educate the public on proper medication storage and disposal, organizers said.

NASA recommends taking a regular inventory of medicine cabinets and counting the pills in each prescription to be sure none have gone missing.

When the drugs are no longer needed or wanted or have expired, they should be taken to a drop-off site; medications should never be flushed down a toilet because they can work their way into water systems and become harmful to the environment, Retherford said.

NASA also provides residents with lock boxes for their medications. Rapp said using these devices will ensure the drugs can’t be reached by anyone other than the owner.

If you go

Residents can drop off old or unwanted medications during the Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse disposal event, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 24 at Medicap Pharmacy, 1588 N. State St., Greenfield.

For more information, contact NASA at 317-477-0200.

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.