Volunteer Cullen Prall, Sheriff’s Deputy Valarie Wright, and SAPCA Vice Chair Shelly Morgan, stand with full bags of unused, unwanted and expired prescription drugs.
Photo by Amy Bertsch
In front of the Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray, residents dropped medication into large clear trash liners within cardboard bins from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 16.
The pharmacy partnered with the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria and the Sheriff’s office to hold a “Drug Take Back,” an event where the Sheriff’s deputies collect unwanted or expired prescription drugs and other medications.
The Drug Enforcement Administration holds two national Drug Take Back events each year in the fall and spring at the Alexandria Police headquarters, the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, and in front of the Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray, where Saturday’s event was held. However, Alexandria residents wanted more opportunities to dispose of unwanted, expired and dangerous drugs, so, since last year, a third event is held in the summer in front of the Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray.
According to Amy Bertsch, the Sheriff’s communications specialist, in April 2016, deputies and police officers collected 392.4 lbs citywide. This summer, deputies collected 11 bags, consisting of 320 lbs.
Captain Robyn Nichols said that the Take Back event benefits the community and that many residents feel relieved to get unwanted medication out of their possession. “Back in April, somebody turned in drugs from the ‘70s,” she said.
Shelly Morgan, vice chair of the SAPCA, advised residents not to dispose of prescription medication themselves. Flushing the medication may add drug residue to the water system, and drugs that are thrown in the trash can be stolen and abused. Morgan suggested that residents save their medication in a safe, secure place and drop it off at a local Take Back event, where the medication is disposed of safely.
Morgan said that the SAPCA has been lobbying to get a metal “drop-off” box placed at the Sheriff’s office. The box would be a “safe place” for residents to drop off unwanted medication so that they don’t have to wait for Take Back events.
The company Covanta incinerates the drugs at a site with DEA supervision.
Morgan also said that though she has been asked many times if unused drugs can somehow be recycled, no pharmacy that she knows of will take unused medication.
As for prescription drug abuse in Alexandria, Morgan said that abuse is “lower than the national average.” At SAPCA, “we focus more on alcohol and marijuana abuse because in Alexandria, prescription drug abuse isn’t a large problem.” However, SAPCA is aware that prescription drug abuse is on the rise nationally.