Anoka County Sheriff's program targets unused drugs

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2011 - 2:10 PM

The Anoka County Sheriff's Office collected 400 pounds of pills during last year's event.

It's a disturbing and emerging trend: teens rummaging through the medicine cabinet of a relative or friend looking for prescription drugs to take.

Partly in an effort to lower the temptation, the Anoka County Sheriff's Office is holding a "prescription drug take back day" from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 29. With no questions asked, people can dispose of unused or unwanted prescription drugs at the sheriff's office south parking lot at 13301 Hanson Blvd. NW. in Andover.

Last year, the county collected about 400 pounds of pills. A significant percentage were drugs that would lend themselves to abuse, said Cmdr. Paul Sommer. The event, which will also be held by several other law enforcement agencies, is sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The pill collection not only addresses a public safety issue, but helps dispose of drugs in an environmentally friendly way, Sommer said. The pills are destroyed in an incinerator instead of people washing them down a drain, he said. Deputies will be on hand to ensure the pills are disposed of properly.

Officers frequently encounter a person who is illegally in possession of prescription drugs, Sommer said. Many have the mindset that the drugs must be safe because they came from the local pharmacy, he said.

"There is a reason the pills are prescribed [in] a specific amount for the patient," he said. "It's easily abused and dangerous when taken by somebody else."

This is the second year Anoka County has offered the prescription drop-off program. Sommer stressed that authorities won't ask any questions.

More than 7 million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs, according to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Each day, approximately 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time, according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet, Sommer said.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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