Disposal easier for surplus drugs

The number of official drop-off boxes for unwanted prescription drugs continues to grow in Thurston County in a bid to keep drugs out of the environment and out of the hands of prescription drug abusers.

Thurston County residents with surplus or unused prescription drugs have five collection sites they can use, including the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Group Health Cooperative, and the Tenino, Tumwater and Lacey police departments. The Yelm Police Department has ordered a collection box to post outside its office too.

The drug take-back program has grown from the Group Health and Sheriff’s Office sites that opened in January.

“People are constantly asking us: ‘Where can I dispose of unwanted prescription drugs?’” said Diane Pieroni, a program manager in drug abuse and violence prevention with Together, a Lacey-based nonprofit group.

No wonder. According to advocates of proper drug disposal, 10 percent to 33 percent of the 96 million containers of medicine sold each year in the state is surplus or unwanted.

Together, along with The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, has launched an educational program called RX360 to teach parents and families how to properly store, monitor and dispose of prescription drugs. Here are some of the reasons why.

 • Three in 5 teens say they have gotten prescription pain pills from their parents’ medicine cabinets.

 • Youth admission to state-funded treatment programs for prescription opiates is 19 times as high as in 2001.

 • Drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in the state.

“Prescription drugs are as dangerous, if not more deadly, than street drugs,” said Together executive director Jim Cooper. “They need to be secured, just like a loaded weapon.”

Since the drop-off boxes started in January, the county site and three police department sites have collected more than 926 pounds of medicine, said Thurston County hazardous waste specialist Gerald Tousley.

Aside from helping curb illegal use, proper disposal keeps them from being flushed down the sink or toilet or dumped in the garbage. Improper disposal contributes to chemical contamination of groundwater, lakes and Puget Sound.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com