Around 1,330 pounds of unused and expired medication was collected from the Carter County Sheriff’s Office Rx drop box over the last three years.
Medication drop boxes can be found at various pharmacy and law enforcement locations throughout Oklahoma as a part of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotic’s Safe Trips for Scripts Drug Prevention Program.
The first drop box was placed at the Harrah Police Department in Feb. 2011, said OBN spokesman Mark Woodward. Since then, the number of boxes has grown to 178, with three of them located in neighboring sheriff’s offices, including Love, Marshall and Murray Counties.
The 1,330 pounds of medication collected from the Carter County Sheriff’s Office is just a portion of the over 165,000 pounds, or 80 tons, of medication that has been collected from drop boxes across the state, Woodward said.
The program began shortly after three students in Harrah overdosed from medicine that they admitted to taking from a relative’s house.
“They certainly weren’t the first to do that,” Woodward said. “There was a rise in overdoses and drugs brought to school where it was identified that they were taken from medicine cabinets of friends and relatives. Many of them were old and expired or just not used anymore, so people had forgotten about them.”
The Safe Trips for Scripts Drug Prevention Program offers individuals a safe way to dispose of unused medicine as opposed to flushing the medication and risking water contamination, Woodward said.
“We wanted to provide a convenient, safe way for people to dispose of any medicine in the house that they no longer need so that it doesn’t end up in the hands of an addict or end up in the school being traded for marijuana or alcohol, things like that that kids might trade them for,” Woodward said.
OBN agents assigned to drop boxes in their area check to see how much room is left inside each box once a week, Woodward said. Controlled drugs like painkillers typically make up around 20% of the contents and prescription, or non-controlled drugs such as blood pressure medication, make up the rest.
“It’s just as important to get rid of (non-controlled drugs) because we’ve had kids take those kind of drugs to school like high blood pressure medicine or heat pills and try to pass it as a painkiller and get money for it,” Woodward said. “Any type of pill or capsule could be targeted by teens who are trying to turn around and sell them on the streets.”
Whenever the drop boxes are full, the medications are transported to Covanta Energy in Tulsa in a metal roll-off container to be disposed of, Woodward said.
The corporation then incinerates the medication and converts it into clean energy, which helps power the HollyFrontier Petroleum Refinery. “It’s a great win-win for the state of Oklahoma,” Woodward said.
Every single person that makes an effort to remove old medicine from their house is reducing the likelihood of a family member or close friend becoming addicted or overdosing, Woodward said. To find the nearest medication drop box to you, visit the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics website and click on the “Safe Trips for Scripts” link.
“We will never know how many of those pills never made it to an addict and never resulted in an overdose,” Woodward said. “We will never know how many pills may have been taken by a teenager and sold at school or possibly ended up sending another student to the hospital. But we do know that it’s having an impact.”