Police Department collects unused medicine for safe disposal

With drug abuse numbers on the rise, the Elizabethton Police Department hopes to put a stop to it, even if it means standing outside in the rainy, autumn chill for several hours in order to do so.

Sgt. Willard Johnson has been running the Drug Takeback event for the past five or six years.

He said the Drug Enforcement Administration hosts the Takeback across the country twice a year.

“This is a public safety and public health issue,” Johnson said.

The DEA’s website says a 2016 study indicated roughly 6.2 million Americans misuse prescription medications, and says a “majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.”

Johnson said the Takeback is an opportunity for people to safely dispose of unused medications, without the risk of someone getting into them behind their backs.

East Tennessee State University pharmacy students joined the Elizabethton Police Department Saturday morning under a canopy, hiding from the freezing rain as they gathered and organized the medicine they received.

Johnson said the event typically attracts anywhere from 50 to 70 pounds of donated medicine every time they host the Takeback.

The students are in charge of classifying the medicine for data purposes and then organizing it. The majority of the medicine received is incinerated at the end of the day.

Johnson said the donations themselves are completely anonymous, and a wide variety of medicines are acceptable to submit.

“We will accept anything from aspirin to the most potent of medicine,” he said.

However, not all medications are acceptable for donations. For starters, illegal substances, including marijuana, are not acceptable for donation. Biohazardous materials like needles are also not allowed.

“Needles can be brought to your local hospital,” Johnson said. “They have donation services for those.”

For those who missed the event, the police department has a special dropbox in the main lobby of their building where people can donate their unused medicine as long as the building is open. Johnson said to cross out the first and last name as well as the address on the label when doing so.

“Many people do not know about the dropbox,” Johnson said.

As an added reminder, Johnson said to take precautions about storing medication in people’s homes.

“With rising numbers of drug abuse, make sure unused drugs are not being misused,” he said. “We encourage anyone with unused medications to donate them to the Takeback event or the dropbox. This is one of the best ways to safely dispose of them.”

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