Sheriff’s office to collect unwanted meds

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is again partnering with the Tri-County Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration this year to collect unwanted, unused and expired prescription medications from the public Saturday.

The JCSO Mobile Incident Command Center will be on site at the Brookshire’s store at 2800 S. Hazel St. from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m where deputies will accept medication for disposal free of charge with no questions asked.

“We don’t ask any questions or ask for identification when people drop off their prescription medications because we know that some people may be afraid to drop off pills if they think they might get into trouble,” said JCSO Maj. Lafayette Woods, Jr. “We are just trying to get these medications off the street, which is why we are accepting them from anyone, no questions asked.

“This will ensure that none of the pills we collect will get into the wrong hands,” Woods said. “It protects young people who might find pills in the medicine cabinet that belong to their parents or grandparents and then take them. It will also cut down on their illegal distribution out on the street.”

Woods said that the prescription drugs most frequently sold illegally are hydrocodone, a narcotic pain reliever, and Xanax, an antianxiety medication.

“Hydrocodone and Xanax pretty much run neck and neck as the most abused prescription drugs in the area,” Woods said. “The rate of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. and in Jefferson County is alarmingly high. The reason we are pushing this drug take back initiative so hard along with the Department of Justice is because of the youth.”

Woods said that people who sell prescription drugs illegally often have large numbers of pills with them.

“It is overwhelming what we see out there at one time,” Woods said. “We have recovered hundreds of pills from individuals.”

Woods said Jefferson County has been a leader in the state in terms of the number of items turned in for disposal in the past and that Arkansas is the top state in its region for collecting prescription medication from the public.

Data provided by the JCSO shows that in 2011 Arkansans turned in 11,924 pounds, or 16.6 million tablets, of prescription drugs at various sites operated by the DEA and more than 100 state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Based on what we received last year the majority of people that turned in prescription drugs were between 50 and 75 years of age,” Woods said. “A lot of them turn in pills they haven’t even used. They may be afraid to take them even if they are prescribed fearing interactions with other drugs that they take. We receive a lot of unopened medicine.”

Woods said that another reason for collecting the unwanted medication was to keep people from flushing them down the toilet or throwing them out in the trash, which pose potential health and safety hazards.

Information provided by the JCSO said that Congress passed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow an “ultimate user” of controlled substance medications to dispose of them by delivering them to entitites authorized by the U.S. Attorney General to accept them.

The act also allows the attorney general to authorize long-term care facilities like nursing homes to dispose of their residents’ controlled substances in certain instances.

The JCSO information said that the DEA has begun drafting regulations to implement the act, a process that can take as long as 24 months, and that until the new regulations are in place events like the one planned for Saturday will be held every few months.