The Barton County Sheriff’s Office will team up once again this year with the Barton County Health Department and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency to help individuals and organizations safely dispose of their unused prescription medications. This year’s Drug Take Back Day will be held Saturday, April 24, on the east side of the Barton County Courthouse, 1408 Kansas Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both prescription and non-prescription medicines will be accepted.
The DEA permits local law enforcement to accept medications for destruction once a year. This can include both prescription and over-the-counter medicines individuals wish to have disposed.
Two of the main goals, according to Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir, are to prevent abuse of prescription drugs and to allow for proper disposal. Representatives will accept drugs from private citizens as well as institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities that may need to dispose of any controlled substance. There is no fee for the service.
Barton County Health Director Karen Winkleman said medications will be deposited into a large container with law enforcement present, and the contents of the container will be sealed shut, locked and safely incinerated following the event. Because of this, medications do not have to be taken out of containers or have labels removed prior to disposal.
According to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Drug Take Back event is important for the safe disposal of medication, because traditional methods for disposing of unused medicines, such as flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash, pose potential safety and health hazards and should be avoided.
Winkleman said those dangers include medications making their way into the public water supply, as well as having individuals come and take those medications out of the trash. She said the event is an important step to help prevent both accidental and intentional misuse of medications in the home.
“If left in the home, we worry about them getting into the hands of others that they are not prescribed for,” Winkleman said. “Sometimes the biggest misuse is by other family members or other friends that gain access to them.”
According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, published in September 2020, 16.3 million people had misused controlled prescription drugs in the past year, including prescription pain relievers, stimulants, tranquilizers and sedatives. Of those, prescription pain relievers were the most commonly misused, having been misused by 9.7 million people. Another 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives.
“Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse,” Schmidt said. “Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates opioid overdoses kill nearly 130 Americans every day. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, pharmaceutical opioids are a leading cause of drug poisoning deaths in Kansas.”
However, Winkleman noted, intentional misuse is not the only danger unused medicines prevent. Even when you take all proper precautions, unused medications still present a hazard to young children in the home, as well.
“Kids (are) climbers, they’re inquisitive. Most medications (are) pretty colors, they look like a Skittle or a piece of candy,” she said. “An overdose can happen quickly.”
Drug Take Back Day events have been held 19 times in the last 11 years. According to DEA statistics, since its inception, law enforcement agencies in Kansas alone have collected more than 100 tons of unused prescription and non-prescription drugs, roughly the average weight of a Boeing 757 aircraft.
In Barton County, Winkleman said more than 1,700 pounds of medications have been collected at the events since 2016.
In the area, the Rush County Sheriff’s Office, 715 Elm St., La Crosse is also listed as a drop-off site. Other locations can be found at www.ag.ks.gov by clicking “Drug Take Back Day” button under the “Quick Links” heading. Unused prescriptions can be turned in year-round at many local law enforcement locations, including the Barton County Sheriff’s Office. Residents should call the BSCO, 620-793-1876, for more information.