The Saratoga Sun -

Rx for a heathier community

 

FW Broschart

he prescription drop box located in the Saratoga police station foyer.

A new anonymous and secured drop box at the Saratoga Police Department now gives Valley residents the ability to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs in a safe and environmentally sound way.

The box, located in the lobby of the police department allows residents to dispose of unwanted, unneeded and expired prescription drugs so that they can be safely disposed of, according to Robert Bifano, acting chief of police for Saratoga. By giving members of the public a safe and anonymous way to dispose of unwanted drugs, local officials hope to keep them out of rivers, waterways and out of the hands of people who might abuse them.

The lock box was provided by Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming according to Bifano. The organization is a nonprofit that implements programs in communities aimed at mitigating public health issues such as tobacco and drug use, according to Sally Patton, a community prevention specialist at the Organization.

Prescription drug abuse is a big problem in Carbon County, according to Paul Zamora, Carbon County Coroner.

"Prescription drug abuse is one of the biggest problems we have," Zamora said. "This year, we have had between 11 and 14 deaths attributable to prescription drug overdoses."

Zamora said in the county that commonly abused drugs include opiates such as OxyContin, hydromorphone and fentanyl, although benzodiazepines such as Xanax have also caused problems.

Zamora said that it has become harder for people to obtain illicit drugs, so abuse of prescription drugs has expanded because of relatively high availability.

Though so-called doctor shopping-going from one doctor to another to obtain prescriptions for drugs that are commonly abused-has gotten harder lately Zamora said, those who abuse and sell drugs simply steal them from people who have legitimate prescriptions but perhaps don't dispose of unused drugs.

"When we go to a death scene, we confiscate all prescriptions drugs in the deceased's name," Zamora said. "We've seen people with years and years of prescription drugs saved up."

Those drugs can be stolen from homes and wind up on the streets, Zamora said.

"I can't even stress how big of a problem it is," he said.

Bifano said that while those issues may not be as prevalent in Saratoga, he is glad that the drug drop off box has been installed, since he agrees that theft and abuse of prescription drugs is an issue that the box can help defeat.

"I guess the main thing is that if you have drugs laying around forever inside a medicine cabinet that you don't need, there's always the potential someone could come in, go through your medicine cabinet-or you have kids-someone could get a hold of it," Bifano said.

According to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2001 and 2014, deaths attributed to overdose of prescription drugs increased 2.8-fold from 10,000 per year in 2001 to nearly 30,000 in 2014. There was a 3.4-fold increase in deaths caused by opioid pain killers and a fivefold increase in deaths attributed to benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Klonipin or Valium.

Patton, of Prevention Management Organization, said that even though the drop box and its contents are secured and anonymous, some people have a natural mistrust of police and may refuse to drop drugs at the box which is in the foyer of the police department and under observation.

Bifano said that the police only open the box to empty it, and the contents are sent to an incinerator in Cheyenne where they are destroyed.

"If they have a prescription, they have nothing to worry about," Bifano said. "But if people have concerns about it, they can certainly just take the label off.

"The main thing is it's environmentally safe," he continued. "A lot of people pour them (unused prescription drugs) down the drains which end up in the water system and in the rivers harming fish and so forth."

According to information released by Harvard University School of Medicine, there are no current studies that show a detrimental effect on humans caused by pharmaceuticals in the water supply, but studies of aquatic species have shown detrimental effects, especially on fish.

Unused birth control pills disposed of in the sink, for instance, have been shown to pollute water sources with estrogen, a female hormone. This has caused imbalances in the male-to-female ratio, and even significant amounts of fish with both sex characteristics in some species, the Harvard report says.

Whether the reason for disposing of drugs is to prevent kids and others from getting hold of them and abusing them, or protecting the rivers and local quality of fishing, Bifano and Zamora both urge residents to use the drop off so drugs of any type are secured from theft and will be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

"It's a great idea, and I would encourage everyone to use those (drop off boxes) to get rid of medicine cabinets full of old drugs." Zamora said. "It doesn't matter if they're narcotics or not, it's a good place to get rid of it."

 

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