Central Kenai Peninsula residents have the chance to safely get rid of their unused and expired prescriptions this week as part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
A collection site for the drugs will be set up outside the Soldotna Professional Pharmacy on North Binkley Street, said Kimberly Hansen, one of the pharmacy’s managers. Residents can drop off unused prescription medications from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
In the five years since the DEA began conducting the drop off events through the Take-Back Initiative in an effort to tackle the nation’s issue with addiction, it has collected and disposed of 5.5 million pounds of prescription drugs, according to a release from the DEA’s Seattle location. Locally, the amount collected through the Take-Back Day events has grown steadily in that time. Hansen said the pharmacy collected 462.2 pounds of drugs during last year’s event, compared to only 36 pounds the first year it was held in 2010.
“On these drug disposal days we have a police officer here with us,” she said, explaining that they can help answer questions about what to dispose of. “It’s just nice to have someone on hand.”
Needles and liquids in containers greater than 4 ounces cannot be dropped off during the Take-Back event, Hansen said. The presence of police officers from both Kenai and Soldotna, however, will allow people to drop off narcotics in addition to prescription drugs, she said.
Alaska State Troopers have also collaborated for previous Take-Back Initiative events, though they will not participate this year, Hansen said.
“What we’ll do is we’ll collect the drugs and then we’ll turn them over to the federal agency,” said Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik.
The drugs are either picked up or shipped to Anchorage to be destroyed, usually incinerated. According to the DEA release, the combined results for 10 previous Take-Back Day events in Alaska alone showed 23,181 pounds of drugs have been “removed from circulation.” Collecting unused prescriptions also helps keep them from entering the local water system, said Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl.
In the years since the Take-Back Initiative has been operating in the local community, Mlynarik and Sandahl said people don’t seem to be confused about how to properly get rid of their unused prescriptions. The Soldotna Police Department recently reinstalled its own drop box for prescription medications, after checking to make sure it was in line with federal regulations, Mlynarik said. The department stores what is collected through the box and sends it in after the larger collection events, he said.
While Kenai Police do not have a drop box, Sandahl said the department still accepts disposals. Residents need only call a dispatcher and let them know they’d like to drop something off.
“Sometimes it’s once or twice a week, and then we may go a month without that occurring,” Sandahl said.
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