Kitsap County Sheriff’s hold take-back day for prescription drugs

Disposed drugs often ended up polluting water system

It is known to many that the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office often deals with thefts related to drug addiction and the sale of narcotics.

But fewer people consider the dangers of those medicines lurking inside the medicine cabinet, which are potentially just as harmful.

Sheriff’s Community Resource Officer Schon Montague and several volunteers held a drug take-back day at the Silverdale Mall last Saturday to take these dangerous substances out of the hands of citizens whose personal circumstances leave them with extra prescription drugs in their households.

The event was coordinated with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Participants in the take-back handed their drugs over to Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office community resource volunteers and filled out a brief survey that included questions such as why the medication was left over, their age and where they think unwanted medicine should be returned on a routine basis.

Death of a family member is the most common reason individuals end up having extra drugs — whether pain killers, anti-inflammatories, heart medication or blood pressure medication is followed by the doctor changing the patients medication, according to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office National Take Back Tour Medicine Day surveys.

Montague said that throwing drugs away in the garbage is extremely harmful to the environment and that his office collects the drugs on national take-back days twice a year to keep the harmful substances out of Kitsap County resident’s water supply because any drug that citizens throw in the garbage eventually goes to a water pumping facility. The prescription drugs sit in landfills and rainwater causes their chemicals to leak into the bottom area of the dump, creating a liquid substance known as leachate.

“When people throw the medications in the trash, they end up in a landfill. They line the bottom of the landfill with a leachate collection system,” Montague said. “Over time, the water from the rain makes the medication leak into the bottom. When the rain comes down, it goes to the bottom of the landfill area and then they pump the water out and take the water to to a transfer station.”

These waste water treatment facilities are not designed to filter these substances, so these medications make their way into the Puget Sound, citizens’ water tables and vegetation, according to Montague.

“This puts toxins in the waters,” Montague said.

According to Montague, the most common first-time illegal drug use among teenagers is from the household medicine cabinet because of the ready availability of these substances within the home.

“Their first experiment, usually they are just sitting there and they get it from a family member in the home or a friend,” he said. “It’s illegal because they are consuming a drug that has been prescribed to someone else.”

Montatgue said that from his experience working in Kitsap County Drug Court that individuals addicted to opiates are the hardest to treat and that is the reason it is so important that citizens with left-over pain killers turn the drugs into the authorities, since prescription pain killers contain opiates.

“Most pain pills fall into the opiate category,” Montague said. “Opiates are one of the few drugs that actually destroys the part of the brain that causes pleasure. Pretty soon they just need it to feel normal.”

Ruth Perkins, of Bremerton, who dropped off pain killers, anti-inflammatories, heart medications and blood pressure medicine to the sheriff’s office,  said that she had such a voluminous left-over prescription medicine supply because her grandmother was ailed with heart trouble and recently passed on. She said that her daughter’s Girl Scouts troop gave parents instructions on how to dispose of these narcotics, but that some of their guidelines on how to do it were not practical from her personal experience.

“They said to grind them up with coffee grounds and kitty litter and put them in zip-lock baggies and throw them away, but critters could still get in there,” Perkins said. “These drugs get in our ground water. It’s terrible. We’re a highly medicated society.”

Marjorie Zantek, of Poulsbo, who also showed up at the drug drop-off with a bag full of left-over prescription drugs agrees and thinks that the way that medical facilities taking care of the elderly provide drugs to this population results in an over-surplus of narcotics in people’s personal space because doctors have so much control over the level and variety of drugs they prescribe to patients.

“At the assisted living facilities, they provide all the medications for you,” she said. “You can never use all of the bottles. When you go to the doctor, the doctor always feels like you have to leave with something.”

Perkins said that she would have self-disposed her grandmother’s drugs by burning them, but that even that wasn’t a good idea since the toxicity of the chemicals released into the air is harmful to breath.

“One of the medications my grandmother was taking was nitroglycerine,” Perkins said. “It’s explosive. Lots of employers have drug testing. My husband can’t even touch my child’s ADD medicine with his hand because if he does, he could fail his drug test. I’m glad they had this event because it’s a load off my mind.”

Other participants at the drug-giveaway who asked to remain unnamed for privacy reasons said the primary reason they had such a stockpile of prescription drugs was because doctors frequently change the strength of their medication from 75 milligrams to 110 milligrams, which confirms the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office survey data citing this as the No. 2 reason why individuals have oversupplies of prescription medication.

Montague said that at the end of every drug take-back day that the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office conducts, his office then mails the numerous boxes and bags of prescription substances to the Drug Enforcement Agency through Federal Express and the DEA, in turn, pays a private company to incinerate the drugs.