Sunday, October 3, 2010

As It Stands: Humboldt officials miss drug disposal opportunity

By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 10/03/2010 01:22:36 AM PDT

Humboldt County and city officials, along with local law enforcement let an important day pass without participation. Sept. 25th was National Prescription Medication Drop-Off Day, a program sponsored by the DEA in conjunction with states and cities nationwide.

I called around that day and checked with the sheriff's office to see if they knew anything about it. No one knew anything. I called the Eureka Police Department and spoke to a very courteous woman who informed me no one was working there that day, and I could try calling local pharmacies to see if they knew anything about the program.

I called a pharmacist at Walgreens. He told me he checked online and there were no prescription drug drop-off places set for Humboldt County that day (or any day). He did offer an alternative; the Crescent City Police Department was participating in some nationwide program, and I could go there to drop off old medications.

Say what? What happened here? Apparently a few people locally knew about this program because I checked out the blog, “Humboldt Online,” and it was mentioned there.

 A short blurb contained a couple of paragraphs about an upcoming prescription drug drop-off program available in Crescent City on Sept. 25th. The headline said, “Fighting prescription drug use” and attribution was given to the Daily Triplicate.

The blurb quoted Sheriff's Cmdr. Tim Athey as saying, “It's an open day where people can bring in and dispose of their outdated prescriptions.” What a good idea, don't you think? I can't understand why we didn't do that here.

What's wrong with this picture? Why didn't someone in this county care enough to get involved in this program? Don't they think we have a problem here? Perhaps local law enforcement already has prescription drug drop-off spots they've forgotten to share with us? I doubt it.

 Think about the pharmacies robbed at gunpoint in recent months by desperate criminals seeking OxyContin. Most local pharmacies have stopped carrying it to protect their employees.

Humboldt County has its share of prescription drug abuse. Ask any of our local law enforcement officials if they think it's a problem. Don't be surprised at the answer. I wonder why they didn't get involved?

Overall, 6.2 million Americans abuse medicine that is not prescribed for them. A 2008 national survey on drug use noted that more Americans currently abuse prescription medications than those who abuse cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined.

Health officials nationally have asked Americans not to flush unwanted medications down the toilet because they'll wind up in our waterways. They also strongly urge people not to throw them out in garbage that ends up in landfills.

There were 10 locations for drop-offs in San Francisco. Sgt. Ardraychak of the SFPD told the press, “Three quarters of prescription medicines that are abused in the United States actually come from family or friends and often times from family medicine cabinets.”

On average, Americans buy about $250 billion worth of medicines per year. When people stop taking their medication, for whatever reason, the remainder sits in the medicine cabinet until its safe date passes, or the wrong person takes it.

The city of New Orleans went to great lengths to make sure everyone got a chance to dispose of unwanted medications. It offered free rides to the disposal stations set up citywide on Sept. 25th. And so it went across the country, concerned cities trying to do something about a huge problem. But not here behind the Redwood Curtain.

About the only thing I think people can do locally is to call their doctor's office and see if they have the means (and desire) to safely dispose of outdated and unwanted prescriptions. I wish I could offer more help, but there must be qualified people in this county with answers ... somewhere.

As It Stands, I'm waiting to hear any explanation. Why didn't Humboldt County get involved?

4 comments:

G. Gilbert Yule said...

I generally enjoy your Sunday Times Standard column Dave. It is one of the highlights of the Sunday paper.

This week's column was a real eye-opener for me. I had heard nothing about the drug drop off program. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Humboldt truly dropped the ball on this one.

Perhaps with your shining a light on this missed opportunity we will get a chance to participate next year.

ImBlogCrazy said...

You're one of my highlights this morning Mr. G. Gilbert Yule!

Thank you for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Dave. I hope that your column starts the ball rolling for next year.

Carl Hand-up said...

hate dumping my old meds down the toilet or placing them in my trash can. Needless to say our local water supply could be impacted by folks just using the bathroom. I urge local law enforcement to get onboard with this program.

Its a great idea dropping our old meds off in safe disposal containers. Perhaps our local VA Clinic could provide such a program.

Great article Dave.

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