CARLSBAD — Betty Bradfield took time out of her Saturday to properly dispose of her old medication, and helped contribute to the 4,887 pounds of medicine that was collected countywide on the first National Prescription Take-Back Day on Sept. 25.
When she learned of the event, she said she was glad for the opportunity to get rid of the medications.
“I’m glad. We need it desperately,” she said. “There was never any place to do it.”
She had tried in the past to dispose of her meds at her local pharmacy but said the pharmacy didn’t accept the refuse.
Countywide, 24 locations had drug enforcement and police officials on site for the drug take-back events that were held in parking lots from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Bradfield, a Carlsbad resident of nine years, went to the Scripps Coastal Medical Center, which hosted a collection site in Carlsbad.
She dropped off five bags of old prescription medicine, including one bag filled with plastic inhalers.
“It’s too dangerous to have around,” she said.
She said her daughter takes quite a bit of medicine and she had been saving bags of old medication and plastic inhalers to dispose of them properly.
Capt. William Rowland of Carlsbad Police Department was at the drop-off site for the event on Saturday and said the turnout was pretty good.
“So far we have 12 boxes,” he said about the amount of prescription drugs collected by about 1:30 p.m.
At the end of the day an informal tally recorded 54 cars drove to the drop-off site.
“I think it’s great,” Rowland said. “It gets a lot of unused, expired medicine out of people’s houses.”
He said that the collection service was especially beneficial for people who have leftover prescription pain medicine, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, which are drugs that might have a street value.
He said the location at Scripps even collected some “sharps,” which are used needles, including EpiPins.
The sharps were separated from the pill bottles, he said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, sponsored the national campaign and said that many people aren’t aware that languishing medicines in the home are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse.
According to the DEA, prescription drug abuse in America is increasing at an alarming rate, as well as the number of poisonings and drug overdoses due to household drugs.
Janet Asaro, prevention specialist from the San Dieguito Alliance, was at the Scripps center on Saturday and said that prescription drug abuse is on the rise in San Diego County.
“This is a huge issue in San Diego County,” she said.
She provided information that said 70 percent of drugs that landed in the hands of youth were obtained from a friend or relative.
Of that percentage, more than half of the youth received the drug or drugs for free from a friend or relative, with 5 percent of them taking the meds without asking.
Another aspect of the DEA’s drug take-back campaign was to raise awareness of the potential hazards of improperly disposing of prescription pills and over-the-counter medication.
According to reports, pills that are flushed down the toilet or sink can end up contaminating drinking water and the ocean.
A pharmacist for Scripps in Encinitas, William Kruger, was available for people to talk to during the recent event.
He said he receives a lot of calls from people who want to know how to discard of their medication in an environmentally safe way.
“The old way is you mix them in coffee grounds or kitty litter and put them in a sealed bag so they won’t spill out, and you put them in the trash,” he said.
He said the event promotes a better way for the environment, although some medicine manufacturers still advise users to discard their leftover pills into the toilet.
But a national event doesn’t have to take place for people to get rid of their meds, because drug collection receptacles have recently become a new fixture at police and safety centers around the county.
The receptacles are about the size and shape of a postal mailbox, and are bolted down securely.
The contents are regularly collected by DEA officials, and incinerated according to state and federal guidelines, a spokeswoman said.
A grant by The Neighborhood Reinvestment Program was obtained in July by The San Diego County Board of Supervisors who unanimously voted to implement the placement of the containers for safe disposal of prescription drugs. The drug-disposal boxes are being installed at 22 sheriff’s offices, stations, and substations across the county.
Sheriff Bill Gore introduced the bill and it “aims to reduce the abuse of prescription drugs obtained from the home by offering safe places to surrender the medications — no questions asked.”
For those who didn’t have the opportunity to drop of their meds at the national Drug take-Back Day, collection receptacles are already in place in North County locations including sheriff’s stations and sub-stations in Fallbrook, San Marcos, Vista and Encinitas.