As prescription drug abuse increases in Washington County and across Minnesota, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are partnering to provide residents with a secure way to dispose of their excess medication.
“The program started as an initiative by the DEA to get unused prescription drugs out of medicine cabinets,” Washington County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mike Benson said. “With more funding, we are able to do more events throughout the county.
The program will have special prescription take-back events 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at the Washington County Government Center in Stillwater, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 14, at the Washington County Service Center in Cottage Grove.
“We take the thousands of pounds of prescription drugs that are turned in and send them to be destroyed by the DEA,” Benson said.
The biggest problem that concerns the sheriff’s office is opiate pain medication, like oxycodone, oxymorphone and hydromorphone.
“It is a new epidemic with opiate addiction,” Benson said.
The opiate pain medication gives a certain high to the person that uses it, Benson said, and the addiction is expensive.
“Users will write fake prescription for themselves, they will buy pain medication from other people, or they will steal it from medicine cabinets,” Benson said.
As heroin increases in purity and becomes less expensive in Minnesota, those who abuse prescription drugs turn to heroin when opiate pain medications become unavailable.
According the drug abuse trend report by the Minnesota Department of Health, treatment admissions for both heroin and other opiates have steadily increased in the metro area since 2000. In 2011, nearly one out of five treatment admissions were for heroin or other opiate addictions. In 2000, heroin and opiate addiction treatment admission was one in 20.
“As we deal with heroin use, we are also trying to slow opiate addiction by getting rid of the extra pain medication,” Benson said.
The sheriff’s office has seen that the elderly are at a higher risk of having their pain medication stolen.
“Elderly people have a need for more prescriptions, and will store them in their home,” Benson said “A child or grandchild, after hearing about a prescription drug high, can steal these medications to use. There is a danger, and these drugs should be kept secure.”
The prescription drug take-back program and the events are free and anonymous.
“We invited the public to turn in any medication they have,” Benson said. “If there is a concern, you can cover names on the labels with a marker. No identification is required. You just hand it over. At the events, you won’t even have to leave your car.”
The Washington County Narcotics Task Force, with Benson as task force commander, is the agent to secure and dispose of the drugs, and the Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment provides funding and advertising costs for the program.
“The DEA disposes of the drugs by incineration, so the drugs do not enter the environment or groundwater,” Benson said. “We do not recommend disposing of medication by flushing it down the drain.”
If residents are unable to attend the take-back events, prescription drugs can be turned in at the Law Enforcement Center in Stillwater, and the Washington County Service Center in Forest Lake and Cottage Grove 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit co.washington.mn.us/meds
Contact Alicia Lebens at [email protected]