It’s easy to let old medications pile up and sit in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. It’s also easy not to notice when they go missing, but it happens every single day. The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that 75 percent of all overdose deaths are opioid-related. Opioids, which are prescribed by doctors to treat pain, are a key source in many narcotics, according to the DEA, and can be highly addictive when misused.
A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services found that the majority of those that misused prescription medications acquired them from a family member or friend. Cleaning out old medications could keep them from winding up in the wrong hands to be abused, accidentally ingested, or sold.
Frontier Community Coalition Coordinator for Humboldt County, Brooke Esquibel, and Winnemucca Police Department (PD) Sergeant, Chris Morton, team up twice a year to help the community rid their homes of unwanted meds, during the national DEA Take Back Day.
The event is held locally, in the Ridley’s parking lot in April and October. The most recent DEA Take Back Day was held on April 30 and amassed 25 pounds of unwanted medications for disposal, according to Esquibel. She added that the weather has a huge effect on the amount of medications they collect and whether or not people are active around town.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a year where the weather is nice for the Take Back Day,” Sergeant Morton said during the event, but he and Esquibel withstand any type of weather in order to make a difference, year after year.
This was the sixth consecutive year that the DEA Take Back Day has taken place in Winnemucca, with other years having collected up to 60 pounds of medications to be disposed of.
This event allows the PD and the community to be deliberate in their efforts to get these meds out of residences where they can easily be exploited.
The goal of the Take Back Day is to get unused medications out of people’s homes “so they can’t be stolen or accidentally taken by someone,” said Esquibel.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that the associated risks of keeping unmonitored, unwanted and unused meds at home, like toxicity, addiction, or even death, far outweigh any environmental consequences of disposing medications by dumping them down drains or flushing them down the toilet, but the take back day allows for disposal without any sort of liability.
The FDA does have a list of medications that they believe should be flushed or poured down the drain if there is not a disposal receptacle or take back day event available. The list includes drugs that are highly sought after for their misuse and drugs that can be lethal if one dose is taken inappropriately. It includes medications that contain fentanyl, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, and other opioids.
There is a receptacle available 24/7 to those looking to remove unwanted meds inside the Winnemucca Police Department on 500 E. Winnemucca Blvd. as well, but this day serves as a necessary reminder and a convenient, hassle-free alternative.
Sgt. Morton explained that letting the DEA dispose of the medications by incinerating them is “safer and more logical,” than disposing of them by other means, because it is the most secure and reliable option.
Esquibel added that she also hands out drug deactivator kits that people can take home with them. The Deterra Drug Deactivation and Disposal System is a bag with deactivating ingredients inside that, when mixed with tap water, can deactivate up to 90 pills, 12 ounces of liquid, or 12 patches of medication at a time. The bag can be resealed and thrown into the garbage afterwards.
The convenience and anonymity of this system makes disposing of meds safe for those that prefer to do it at home.
“Having medications out where children can get them, or where teens can find them and experiment with them can be lethal,” said Morton. The PD and coalition want to provide options and a reminder to dispose of unwanted prescription meds because they have the potential to be very dangerous.
“It’s super important,” Esquibel said. “We’re just letting people know we are out there to take the meds and dispose of them.”
For more information about prescription drug abuse and the FDA Flush List, visit: