Drug take-back offers safe disposal of old medication

Pine Bluff and Jefferson County residents were able to get rid of expired, unused and unwanted medications Saturday as the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Tri-County Drug Task Force and Pine Bluff Police Department set up collection points as part of the Eighth National Drug Take-Back Initiative.

The sheriff’s office collection point was on the parking lot of Brookshire’s on West 28th Avenue.

“It’s going good so far,” task force Sgt. Andy Hoots said after the first hour. “We’ve got close to a garbage bag full and we’ve just started.”

The collection point for the police department Vice and Narcotics Division was in front of Walgreen’s on East Harding Avenue.

“We’ve collected about 10 pounds of pills so far, as well as some other stuff,” Detective Keith Willoughby said Saturday morning.

Hoots said the event offers the public a safe way to dispose of expired or unused medications “and it gives us less to worry about those pills getting on the street.

“Prescription drug abuse is every bit as significant a problem as other drugs like crack cocaine, meth and marijuana that get the headlines,” Hoots said. “It’s also a lot harder to detect because people know that drugs like crack and meth are illegal but a lot of times, people won’t question someone who has a prescription pill bottle to see if that’s their prescription.”

Hoots also said the problem of prescription drug abuse is “growing every year.”

Ted Quandt of Pine Bluff was one of those who took advantage of the free service Saturday morning at the sheriff’s department site, bringing in two sacks of medications for disposal.

“A lot of this stuff is fairly old,” Quandt said. “Most of it is over-the-counter that’s out of date but we didn’t want to throw it in the trash or flush it down the toilet. This is a good way to get rid of it. We missed out the last time they did one of these so we wanted to bring our stuff to this one.”

Investigator Lee Freeman, who is assigned to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, was manning the police department collection site with Willoughby. Freeman said one of the goals of the program was to keep prescription medications from being dumped into landfills, where the medications could get wet and cause toxic run-off into ground water supplies.

“All this stuff is going to be taken and destroyed properly,” Freeman said.

According to a press release from sheriff’s office Major Lafayette Woods Jr., the department and drug task force collected 169 pounds of unused, unwanted and expired prescriptions during the last national drug take-back event in October 2013, and nationally, 647.211 pounds of drugs were collected by law enforcement agencies that partnered with the DEA.

Total amounts collected at each site were not immediately available Saturday.