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Police, DEA take aim at old prescription drugs

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National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Police, DEA take aim at old prescription drugs

  • Boots MacKenzie/Flickr

Old and unused prescription drugs piling up in your medicine cabinet can tempt children bent on abusing them, officials say.

“The proper disposal of these unused prescription drugs can in effect save lives,” said Ramona Sanchez, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Phoenix.

Federal and state officials are urging Arizonans to bring their unused, unwanted and expired prescription medicines to collection sites Saturday as part of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Law enforcement agencies had established collection sites in nearly 60 Arizona communities as of Monday, according to the website of the Office of Diversion Control, part of the DEA.

“Prescription drug abuse is not only a problem that falls in the metro areas,” Sanchez said. “It falls statewide: rural areas, cities, communities and towns.”

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at no charge to them, people can bring their unused prescription medicines to collection sites, no questions asked. Needles, syringes and glass containers won’t be accepted.

Nearly 12,000 pounds of prescription medicines were collected in Arizona during the two previous take-back days organized by the DEA, according to an agency news release.

Prescription medicine ranks fourth among the substances that Arizona youths use the most, after alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana, according to a 2010 survey of a sample of eighth, 10th and 12th graders by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission. Roughly one in five students surveyed had used prescription medicine at least once, according to the survey.

“People or the youth in particular believe that if a doctor prescribes you some medications … they may not be as dangerous as they think,” Sanchez said. “But that is the farthest from the truth.”

Beyond issues of substance abuse, throwing medicine away or flushing it into the toilet can be harmful both to the environment and humans as it can leak through sewer systems into the groundwater or sit in landfills and contaminate the soil.

“If this is done a lot, it could really have an effect on how much (medicine) is in the drinking water in the future,” said Mark Shaffer, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Shaffer said proper disposal of prescription medicines is a growing issue as Arizona ages.

“People should participate in these kinds of events because it’s the environmentally responsible thing to do,” he said.

Handling prescription medicines

If unable to take them to a collection site:

  • Take medicines out of their original containers.
  • Mix them with an undesirable substance like used coffee grounds or kitty litter.
  • Place the mixture in a container such as sealed bag.
  • Throw the container into your household trash.

Flushing prescription medicines

 Some prescription medicines may be flushed only if the accompanying patient information says it is safe to do so. A list of medicines recommended for flushing is available on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.

Southern Az drug take-back sites

Pima County

  • Town Of Sahuarita, Wal-Mart, 18680 S. Nogales Hwy, Green Valley
  • Tucson Police Department, TPD West Service Center, 1310 W. Miracle Mile
  • South Tucson Police Department, South Tucson PD Lobby Entrance, 1601 S. 6th Ave.
  • Marana Police Department, Target, 3901 W. Ina Rd.
  • University Of Arizona Police Department, UAPD Conference Room #101, 1852 East First St.
  • Tohono O'odham Nation Police Dept., TOPD, State Route 86, Sells
  • Oro Valley Police Department, Target, 10555 N. Oracle, Oro Valley
  • Pima County Sheriff's Department, Safeway, 9705 N. Thornydale Rd.
  • Davis-Monthan AFB, Davis-Monthan Bx/Pharmacy, 2527 Commanche St.
  • Davis-Monthan AFB, Davis-Monthan Medical Facility Pharmacy, Bldg. 400 Alamo Ave.
  • Department Of Public Safety, DPS Highway Patrol District 8 (Tucson), 6401 S. Tucson Blvd.

Cochise County

  • Cochise County Sheriff's Office, Benson Patrol District, 126 West 5th St., Benson
  • Benson Police Department, Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, 795 W. 4th Street, Benson
  • Cochise County Sheriff's Office, Douglas Patrol District, 661 G Ave., Douglas
  • Cochise County Sheriff's Office, Willcox Patrol District, 450 South Haskell Ave., Willcox
  • Cochise County Sheriff's Office, Bisbee Patrol District, 205 North Judd Dr., Bisbee
  • Cochise County Sheriff's Office, District I Patrol Division, 100 Colonia De Salud Building C Suite 106, Sierra Vista
  • Arizona Department Of Public Safety and Sierra Vista Police Department, Ace Hardware
  • DPS and Sierra Vista PD, 3756 E. Fry Blvd., Sierra Vista

Santa Cruz County

  • Nogales Police Department, Nogales Police Department, 777 N. Grand Ave., Nogales
  • Santa Cruz County Metro Task Force, Rio Rico Pharmacy, 1103 Circulo Mercado, Rio Rico

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