Since February, the I.V. Foot Patrol has participated in a drop-box program that collects roughly 100 pounds of prescription pills for environmental disposal per week.
[media-credit id=20128 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]The drugs are gathered as part of Operation Medicine Cabinet, a county program that invites people with prescribed medications to safely and anonymously dispose unneeded or expired pills. The sheriffs currently maintain anonymous drop boxes at each of their offices.
I.V. Foot Patrol Lt. Brian Olmstead said the anonymous boxes have been successful.
“We’ve done hundreds of pounds of medication that we’ve already destroyed,” Olmstead said. Prescription drugs — such as Vicodin or Ritalin — cannot be thrown out like other waste and, according to Santa Barbara County Public Works program leader Leslie Wells, pills thrown in trash receptacles can contaminate water in areas near landfills.
Furthermore, prescription medicines are considered a controlled substance, meaning only prescriptive owners or law enforcement officials may handle them.
“Nobody else is allowed to collect a controlled substance,” Wells said. “That’s the issue. There are concerns about water quality. There are issues that if you landfill it, it’s going to leech into somewhere.”
Olmstead said people often keep prescription medicine at home long after they need them, posing a danger to youths who may use the drugs recreationally.
“There’re a lot of overdoses every year,” Olmstead said. “There are some that involve children getting access to unneeded prescriptions and old prescriptions in the house.”
The county has hauled in thousands of pounds of pills from recent disposal efforts and Olmstead said the county has collected more than 2,300 pounds of prescription medicine in recent months.
Wells noted the county burns the unused pills in large incinerators to dispose of them, preventing the drugs from ever reaching landfills and contaminating ground water.
Olmstead said the elderly community has made the greatest use of the disposal boxes, though he hopes the younger community in Isla Vista will also make use of the boxes.
“It’s an anonymous drop,” Olmstead said. “We encourage people to do it.”