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Soldotna police provide means for drug disposal

Posted: Friday, February 04, 2011

Forget flushing your unwanted prescription medications down the toilet to keep them out of your childrens' curious hands. No more following the convoluted steps outlined on PSA commercials for disposing of those painkillers you never used after undergoing knee surgery.

A squat, green, mailbox-esque repository has been installed in the lobby of Soldotna Police Department headquarters where members of the public can easily and anonymously get rid of expired or unnecessary meds -- no contact with officers, no questions asked.

"If you have medication that you no longer need, the safest thing to do is remove it from your home and dispose of it properly," Sgt. Duane Kant said. "That way it keeps it from being stolen or abused by children in the home, either accidentally or on purpose."

Kant pointed out that "prescription drug abuse is huge" right now on the Kenai Peninsula, a fact that further necessitated a program like this one. And seeing as law enforcement officials are among a very small group of people legally allowed to confiscate drugs, the responsibility clearly falls upon the SPD.

"Once prescription medication is prescribed -- especially the controlled substances, like hydrocodone and OxyContin -- the pharmacy or doctors' offices cannot take those medications back due to federal regulations," Kant said.

If the drugs are, say, flushed down the toilet (as some bottles still instruct) in a noble effort to rid the household of these potentially harmful materials, many of the substances may find their way back into homes through the plumbing.

"A huge problem nationwide is pollution of water due to prescription medications being introduced into the water table or water supply," Kant said. "We obviously don't want those medications introduced into the City of Soldotna's sewer treatment system where they end up in the Kenai River, which is the lifeblood of the city."

Even people who have their own well and septic system can contaminate their groundwater by implementing this removal method.

All of these problems compounded as an impetus for the drug drop-box project, the idea for which was spawned by the Sept. 25, 2010, national drug turn-back day, when the SPD joined other law enforcement agencies in promoting a single day for people to turn in their excess medications.

The Soldotna department found that program so successful that expansion of the idea on the local level seemed prudent, so they partnered with the Soldotna Professional Pharmacy and the Central Peninsula Health Foundation to get the ball rolling.

The box was installed and ready for use by early January, and the department emptied it for the first time on Tuesday. When asked about the amount and type of materials found upon unloading the bin, Kant said the department was "not really ready to put those numbers out there," but did report that 15 percent of the haul consisted of controlled substances.

The Central Peninsula Health Foundation provided the necessary funds for the secure drop-box, which in addition to prescription medications also accepts over-the-counter medications, pet meds, vitamins, and lotions. It does not, however, take needles, inhalers, hydrogen peroxide, or aerosol cans.

Karen Garcia can be reached at karen.garcia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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