The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is celebrating its two-year partnership anniversary with Covanta Energy for safely disposing no-longer-needed prescriptions.

In the past two years, OBN has collected more than 46,000 pounds of pharmaceutical drugs from permanent drop-off containers around the state, including those located at the sheriff's departments in Carter, Jefferson, Love, Marshall and Murray counties, and Tishomingo Police Department.

OBN spokesman Mark Woodward calls the proper disposal of medication critical.

"Prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic in Oklahoma. It's unnecessary and unsafe to leave outdated drugs in the house. Old, expired medications left in the home can be targeted by users. Teenagers also target their parents' current or expired prescription drugs to abuse, trade or sell in order to obtain alcohol, marijuana or other drugs," he said.

In addition, the program helps protect the environment by providing a way for those with no-longer-needed medications a convenient and "green" way of disposing of prescriptions.

"When flushed down the drain, or disposed of in landfills, medications find their way into waterways and contaminate surface waters, having an adverse effect on our drinking water and the environment. These drugs cannot be removed from water supplies at typical waste water treatment plants and the contaminated water can then have negative effects on aquatic organisms, fish, and other wildlife," Woodward said.

Carter County Sheriff Ken Grace said he was extremely pleased with the success of the drop off box placed in the lobby of his department about two years ago.

"As OBN Director Darrell Weaver has said repeatedly, prescription drug abuse is a silent cancer in Oklahoma. I am thrilled citizens are using the box as a way to keep prescriptions they no longer need out of the hands of those who would use them illegally, especially teenagers, or those who would prey on others by attempting to sell them," Grace said. "It takes all of us — law enforcement and citizens — working together to eradicate this epidemic and protect the environment, not only for today, but for tomorrow."

Weaver said statistics show 81 percent of drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma are tied to prescription drugs.

Earlier this month, the Tulsa firm presented its 2012 Henry Bellmon Sustainability Award for display by Weaver in OBN's new facility in Oklahoma City. OBN has a partnership agreement with Covanta Energy to safely destroy the drugs collected from the disposal containers at no charge to OBN or the state of Oklahoma through the firm's Prescription for Safety Program, known as Rx4Safety. The program was launched nationally in 2010 as a solution to help communities throughout the nation keep medications out of the country's waterways and drinking water, as well as to help with the problem of abuse. The firm destroys the medications through state-of-the-art combustion controls and air pollution control equipment to ensure the drugs are destroyed in an environmentally sound manner.

To date, Covanta's program has destroyed more than 600,000 pounds of unwanted medications at its energy-from-waste facilities nationwide.

Talking about the success of the program in Oklahoma, Weaver said, "Simply put, our citizens are dying and it's unacceptable. The partnership with Covanta Energy is a win-win-win; the drugs are converted into renewable energy, this service does not cost the citizens of Oklahoma and the pharmaceuticals are destroyed. This is a good example of a public/private partnership. This program has had a significant impact on this troubling problem. If we save one citizen's life, then the effort will be worth it."

Drop off boxes can be found at:

- Carter County Sheriff's Department — 100 S. Washington St., Ardmore

- Jefferson County Sheriff's Department ­ — 218 N. Main St., Waurika

- Love County Sheriff's Department — 480 W. Chickasaw St., Marietta

- Marshall County Sheriff's Department — 20-7 N. 4th St., Madill

- Murray County Sheriff's Department — 700 W. 10th St., Sulphur

- Tishomingo Police Department — 202 S. Capitol St., Tishomingo