By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Hundreds, maybe even thousands of lives could be saved on Saturday.
At least that’s the goal.
Federal and local authorities are hoping people will gather up unused and unwanted medicines at home and drive the drugs to drop-off sites set up around the state. More than two dozen sites in Snohomish and Island counties will collect unused prescription medications on Saturday as part of the first-ever national drug take-back day. More than 3,400 sites nationwide will participate.
“It’s as easy as getting in the car and dropping it off,” said Mark Thomas, acting special agent in charge with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Seattle.
The majority of abused prescription drugs come from medicine cabinets in homes, Thomas said. There’s an easy way to put a dent in prescription drug abuse — throw unused medicines away, he said.
“Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem, and take-back events like this one are an indispensable tool for reducing the threat that the diversion and abuse of these drugs pose to public health,” said Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy.
Police departments in Snohomish County have been collecting unused prescription drugs since late last year as part of a pilot program to reduce accidental poisonings, cut down on drug abuse and clean up the county’s waterways. People are discouraged from flushing medications because of the potential for pollution. There are secure collection boxes at the county’s 28 police stations.
Statistics show that people in Snohomish County are more likely to die from an accidental drug overdose than in a car accident. The majority of unintentional poisoning deaths are caused by opioids, such as Vicodin.
Nearly 600 pounds of medication were collected in the first six months of the county’s program.
The program piggy-backs on efforts by Group Health Cooperative and local Bartell Drugs to safely dispose of unwanted medications. Group Health collects about 6,700 pounds of expired and unused medicines every two weeks in Washington state.
But state law prevents pharmacies from taking back prescription narcotics. Police are allowed to receive and handle narcotics.
New federal legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday is aimed at making it easier for local agencies and organizations, other than police, to run drug disposal programs under DEA guidelines. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., also calls for a public awareness campaign.
Police, public health officials and some lawmakers would like to see the pharmaceutical companies develop and pay for the drug take-back programs. They argue that the companies should be responsible for the life of the product, similar to electronics companies that pay for recycling old televisions and computers.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; email@example.com.