Just about everybody has a bottle or two lying around the house — painkillers prescribed for a toothache or back injury, pills to relieve stress or anxiety, or other drugs.
If you don’t use the full prescription — and many people don’t — what do you do with the leftover medications?
Some people flush them down the toilet, which leads them eventually into the community water supply. Other folks just keep them lying around, moving them to drawers where they are eventually forgotten, said Chief Tim Olivas of the Morro Bay Police Department.
“Out of sight, out of mind,” Olivas said.
This growing community stash of leftover drugs is creating law enforcement and environmental problems, Olivas said, especially when the medications end up in the hands of teenagers who ingest or sell them.
“We’ve had problems in the schools,” with kids selling prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets, said Brandy Swain, crime prevention specialist for the Sheriff’s Department.
Swain, Olivas and other law enforcement personnel throughout the county are teaming up with the Drug Enforcement Administration to safely dispose of those drugs via a campaign called Operation Medicine Cabinet.
Under the program, which starts Saturday, each city will provide a lock box for residents who want to safely get rid of these leftover narcotics. There are 10 locations.
It’s all part of the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back campaign.
Drop-off boxes will “allow residents to safely dispose of all types of unwanted medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, without the fear of them getting into the wrong hands or damaging the environment,” according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Department. (Residents may not drop off needles.)
Authorities are asking that residents leave the medications in original or sealed containers. However, Swain suggested ripping off labels to protect the donors’ identities.
After being collected at drop-off locations, the medications will be taken to an incineration plant in Long Beach.
The dangers of prescription drugs
In promoting the program, the Sheriff’s Department gave out some alarming statistics:
Every day, 2,500 youths between ages 12 and 17 try painkillers for the first time.
One in three teenagers report having a close friend who has abused prescription drugs.
Accidental poisoning from medications is the fourth most common cause of death in children younger than 5.
Where to discard medications
Residents can drop off unwanted medications at the following police and sheriff’s stations:
Arroyo Grande, 200 N. Halcyon Road
Atascadero, 5505 El Camino Real
Grover Beach, 711 Rockaway Ave.
Los Osos, 2099 10th St.
Morro Bay, 850 Morro Bay Blvd.
Oceano, 1681 Front St.
Paso Robles, 900 Park St.
Pismo Beach, 1000 Bello St.
San Luis Obispo, 1042 Walnut St.
Templeton, 356 N. Main St.