Take two pills, call the police in the morning

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown displays an assortment of prescription pills that will become part of
Island County Sheriff Mark Brown displays an assortment of prescription pills that will become part of 'Take Back Day' Sept. 25.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

It's time to open up your medicine cabinet and sort through all those old prescription bottles. The police want your pills.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration is teaming up with law enforcement on Whidbey Island as part of a nationwide prescription "Take-Back Day." Law enforcement officers will be collecting expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs, as well as over-the-counter medication, Saturday, Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at three locations on Whidbey Island. The service is free and anonymous; no questions asked.

Collection sites will be manned at the Oak Harbor Police Department, Coupeville Town Hall and the Island County Sheriff's Office South Whidbey precinct, which is at 5521 E. Harbor Road in Freeland.

The main purpose of the program is to prevent prescription drug abuse, as well as the health and environmental hazards of inappropriately disposed drugs. The rates of prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed in recent years, as has the rate of accidental poisoning or overdosed on these drugs. More people die from prescription drug poisoning than car crashes.

"Many Americans are not aware that medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse," the DEA press released states.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown pointed out that prescription drug abuse has affected Whidbey Island in many ways. In the last couple of years, two drug stores — one in Oak Harbor and another in Coupeville — were robbed at gunpoint by men demanding drugs. It's not uncommon for burglars to break into houses to look for prescription drugs.

"Anything we can do to reduce the abuse of prescription drugs in our community is a good thing," Brown said.

It won't cost law enforcement on Whidbey Island anything to participate in the program. Brown, for example, is donating his own time to work at the collection site on South Whidbey. He said the event will help local law enforcement gauge whether there is a demand in the community for a regular or periodic drug take-back program.

Brown said disposing of unwanted drugs in a responsible manner isn't as easy as it seems. You shouldn't flush them down the drain since many types of medications can pollute water, harm wildlife and create a human health hazard. Drugs are now measurable in water bodies that receive treated sewage. Throwing drugs in the trash can lead to people rummaging through garbage.

“With this prescription drug take-back campaign, we are aggressively reaching out to individuals to encourage them to rid their households of unused prescription drugs that pose a safety hazard and can contribute to prescription drug abuse,” said Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace.

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