Police in Coeur d’Alene and in Boise, Meridian and Garden City in southwest Idaho have set up steel bins in their office lobbies where unused medicines can be dropped off for disposal.
Properly disposing medicines is a problem because the drugs can pollute drinking water if flushed, and leach out of landfills if put in the garbage. But not getting rid of the unused drugs means they can be used illegally.
Some prescription medications are being bought and sold and handed out at teen parties after the teens raid parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets, said Lt. John Overton of the Meridian Police Department.
“I think every parent has a responsibility to take any prescription drugs and move them into a place where they won’t be found,” he said.
The bins at police stations are collecting a wide variety of medications, Overton said.
“We are seeing everything from your hardest of hard-core painkiller prescriptions to the everyday prescriptions to a large quantity of over-the-counter medicine,” he told the Idaho Statesman.
Medicines include Oxycontin, a potentially addictive pain killer, Overton said. Other items dropped off often have a label that’s too faded to read, one going back to 1975.
Drugs that are collected by police agencies in the bins are incinerated.
Lynn Hightower, spokeswoman for the Boise Police Department, said someone dropped off a bag full of pills of all shapes and sizes.
At least 20 states have programs to take the medicines, motivated in part by a 2000 study that found traces of pharmaceuticals in waterways nationwide. Even small amounts of pharmaceutical residues can harm aquatic species, researchers have said.
The problem of unused medications will likely increase, said Angela Deckers, hazardous waste coordinator for the city of Boise.
“It’s only going to go up with the aging population and the amount of prescriptions being prescribed,” she said.