Law agencies to accept expired prescription drugs Saturday
Expired pills not only lose their punch against sickness, but pose a risk for those who take them for the high.
On Saturday, area law enforcement agencies will accept expired or unused prescription medicine from the public as part of a nationwide campaign to clean out medicine cabinets of drugs that might otherwise fall into the hands of youths.
Residents of Yuma can leave expired drugs at a designated drop-off location in the parking lot of the Yuma Police Department, 1500 S. 1st Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The San Luis and Wellton police departments will be accepting expired medicine from the public during the same hours. The drop-off locations are the police departments: 1030 E. Union St. in San Luis and 28618 Oakland Ave. in Wellton.
Also during those hours, the Quechan Police Department will be accepting the drugs at 1860 Sapphire Lane in Winterhaven.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Yuma County Sheriff's Office will take the drugs off residents hands at the main office in Yuma, 141 S. 3rd Ave., and at the Foothills substation, 13190 E. South Frontage Road.
The area law enforcement agencies are taking part in a nationwide campaign headed up by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in response to a growing rate of prescription medicine abuse.
San Luis Police Officer Luis Marquez said illegal narcotics such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines still represent a bigger problem, but a growing concern is abuse of pills by people for whom those drugs aren't prescribed or intended.
“Today our young people are finding new ways to get high and they are getting (drugs) from their parents' or grandparents' medicine cabinets,” he said. “It's increasing. It's something that increases every year, and it's something that we have to attack. I encourage the community to clean out their medicine cabinets.”
People who misuse pills, syrups or other drugs in liquid form put themselves in danger, Marquez said, because they're taking medicines without knowing all the ingredients.
In the areas outside the county's municipalities, sheriff's deputies are likewise finding increasing abuse of prescription drugs, particularly by young people who get them from parents' or grandparents' cabinets, and then use them or give them to others, sheriff's spokesman Capt. Eben Bratcher said.
Tom Van Hassel, pharmacy director for Yuma Regional Medical Center, says drug abusers aren't all who are endangered by the medicines.
Also at risk, he says, are people who try to economize by saving or stockpiling medicines prescribed to them for previous illnesses. Even if they think the same illnesses have come back, they may in fact be suffering different conditions that require different medicines.
What's more, says Van Hassel, if medicines have passed their expiration dates, chances are they've lost the potency needed to restore health. Instead, people need to get new checkups and new prescriptions.
“Those who treat themselves have bad doctors,” he said.
Van Hassel, current president of the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy, says he endorses the DEA campaign as the only certain method of disposing of the drugs. The medicines the police agencies collect Saturday will be turned over to the DEA, which will incinerate them.
On the other hand, medicines people discard in their trash cans can recovered by drug abusers, Marquez said. And washing them down the toilet or drain can pose environmental dangers.
All prescribed or over-the-counter medicines will be accepted for disposal Saturday, and no questions will be asked of those who bring them in. Labels containing personal information should be removed from medicine containers.
“I would strongly urge people to take advantage of this opportunity to safely dispose of unwanted or expired prescription medicine,” said Bratcher. “It's the safest available way to prevent unwanted access to prescription drugs as well as potential contamination risk.”