The San Joaquin County Public Works Department reported this week that in late October law enforcement agencies collected more than 1,100 pounds of unwanted prescription drugs and another 1,000 pounds of “sharps,” or needles, in a program to prevent prescription drug abuse and improper disposal.
The drugs and needles came from residents throughout San Joaquin County taking advantage of the program to turn in potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs. The effort, in partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, included law enforcement officers from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department, University of the Pacific, and the cities of Tracy and Manteca.
Members of the Lambda Sigma Delta chapter of Rho Pi Phi, a professional pharmacy fraternity from Pacific’s Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, provided over-the-counter medication consultations at select event locations.
The amount of drugs collected was a 327 percent increase over the previous year. Manteca police collected 156 pounds of drugs; Tracy police collected nearly 300 pounds; Pacific police took in 69 pounds; and more than 600 pounds were collected by sheriff’s deputies at six locations throughout the county. In addition, 1,021 pounds of used medical sharps were collected.
The DEA reported that 188.5 tons were turned in at 5,327 sites throughout the nation. Local law enforcement agencies in partnership with the DEA will continue to hold occasional prescription drug collection events, with one tentatively scheduled for April 2012.
Unwanted prescription drugs and used “sharps” continue to be a major public health, safety, and environmental problem. Lacking convenient disposal options, people often discard unused or expired drugs down drains or toilets. Water treatment systems treat water, but drug residues are still found in the treated water discharged into local waterways. The U.S. Geological Survey found that 80 percent of streams in the United States have measurable concentrations of prescription drugs, including steroids and hormones. Even low level exposure can have a negative effect on fish and other aquatic species and may also have harmful effects on human health.
Improper disposal of used sharps in the trash or down the toilet threaten residents and others through accidental “needle stick” injuries. People exposed to contaminated sharps can contract life-altering diseases from blood borne pathogens.
For additional drug disposal event locations visit www.DEA.gov or call 800-882-9539.