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Time to Clean Out the Medicine Cabinet

By Kathy Hubbard

If you’ve been reading, as I have, the terrifying statistics about prescription drug misuse and abuse, you would run to your medicine cabinet, check all the medications therein for opioids, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, sedatives, and tranquilizers. Then you will cross off your name with a marker, put them in a bag and take them directly to Sandpoint Police Department at 1123 Lake Street.

Oh no, you say, that site is only open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Well, here’s your semi-annual chance to take unused, expired drugs to be destroyed on a Saturday, this coming Saturday, April 30, to be precise. In coordination with Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, the location for this event is the Sandpoint Community Hall, 204 S. First Avenue, and the police will be there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to help you.

“Too often, unused prescription drugs find their way into the wrong hands. That’s dangerous and often tragic. That’s why it was great to see thousands of folks from across the country clean out their medicine cabinets and turn in – safely and anonymously – a record amount of prescription drugs,” the DEA said about last year’s event.

Closer to home, Sandpoint Chief of Police Corey Coon said that every week they have individuals dropping off no longer needed medications. This program, which was launched over ten years ago, has been a huge success here.

“It gives our community members an opportunity to dispose of their prescriptions safely and responsibly,” Coon said. “It helps prevent prescriptions from getting into the hands of kids experimenting or those who might be abusing them. And, it can help prevent an environmental hazard.”

Close to six percent of people in the U.S. reported misusing any prescription psychotherapeutic drug in the past 12 months. That’s over 16 million people. Talking about prescription pain relievers alone, the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics says that close to 40 percent of the misused or abused drugs are freely given by a family member or friend. Around 3.2 percent are stolen. Thirty-seven percent of pain relievers are actually prescribed by a healthcare provider.

These statistics were amazing to me until a close friend told me this story. Her pain management physician changed her medications shortly after refilling a prescription for the former drug she’d been taking. She was complaining to an acquaintance of hers. It was one of those “wouldn’t you know it, I no more paid my co-pay, and he changes the meds,” kind of conversation.

Then, to my friend’s surprise, the acquaintance said, “I’ll buy the drugs from you if you want to sell them.” To say my friend was bowled over would be an understatement. She turned down the request and will be bringing the drugs on Saturday.

NCDAS says that “it is statistically likely that you or someone you know has abused a prescription drug within the last 12 months. The tips for preventing abuse include always following usage instructions. “Never use a prescription other than as directed by your doctor.”

They advise you not to order prescriptions online unless it is with a known reputable pharmacist. “Many of these drugs are counterfeit and contain deadly doses of a substance unknown to the user.” They also say, “Never sell or give away prescription drugs; always properly dispose of leftover prescriptions and encourage treatment without judgment or shame. “Everyone needs some help to overcome addiction.”

The Sandpoint Drug Take-Back Program does not accept liquids, needles, or sharps. Those can be mixed with something unappealing like kitty litter or coffee grounds, sealed in a plastic bag, and put in the trash.

Please do not ever never flush any medication down the toilet. Unfortunately, water and waste treatment plants cannot filter out some chemicals that can affect our wildlife at the least and our drinking water at the most.

So remember, Drug Take Back is happening Saturday, April 30, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Community Hall or any weekday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Police Department. I implore you to please dispose of your drugs appropriately.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of the Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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