Portage County has several drop-off locations for Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday

Rebecca Reis

If you’re in the midst of spring cleaning, take advantage of this Saturday to dust out your medicine cabinet in a safe, responsible way.

Saturday is National Drug Take-Back Day, and federal, state and local officials are asking the public to properly dispose of their expired or unneeded prescription and over-the-counter medications in designated pharmaceutical collection boxes across the country in an effort to curb prescription drug abuse and prevent possible environmental hazards. 

Take-Back Day was launched in September 2010 and has collected and disposed of approximately 3.4 million pounds of medication, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Saturday marks the eighth national “Drug Take-Back Day,” which is held every six months, but collection boxes can be found year-round at the Kent and Kent State police departments, the county sheriff’s office, Hiram College and the Aurora, Streetsboro and Brimfield police departments.

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs flushed down the toilet in a house with a septic tank can contaminate groundwater, and even those connected to a wastewater treatment plant, which are generally not equipped to remove medicines, can pass drugs into rivers and lakes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Though the EPA said scientists have not yet found evidence of adverse health effects from pharmaceuticals in the water, research suggest certain drugs could cause harm, and the EPA is still investigating.

Lt. James Prusha said the boxes are secure and a detective removes the box’s contents periodically. Those drugs are then taken to Portage County Solid Waste Management and incinerated. 

Prusha also said while the ecosystem is a good reason for correctly disposing medications, it’s also important for keeping unused medications out of the hands of children or even adults who might abuse them. 

A 2009 and 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed more than 71 percent of prescription drug abusers — especially new or occasional drug users — obtained their most recently used drugs through a friend or relative, 55 percent of which got them for free. Five percent obtained those drugs through a friend or relative without asking. 

“So if you have any expired prescription medication and stuff like that, if they’re hanging around, then there’s a chance someone’ll get their hands on them,” Prusha said. “And that’s no good.”

If a disposal box is not available, the EPA suggests people take the following steps to dispose of unwanted medicines:

1: Take all medicines out of the original containers.

2: Mix these medicines with an undesirable substance such as coffee grounds or cat litter.

3: Put this into a disposable container with a lid, such as a plastic food container, or a sealable bag.

4: If the medicine was a prescription, remove all personal information from the label.

5: Everything can now be placed in the trash.

Contact Rebecca Reis at [email protected].