Got drugs?

Drug take-back day to dispose of old pills

The April 30 Pill Take Back Initiative takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Public Safety Center, 5700 Freeport Boulevard in Sacramento.

Rather than feed your head, or transgendering fish, feed the Sacramento Police Department instead.

As part of a national drug take-back initiative, the SPD is offering individuals the rare opportunity to give the police drugs, free from scrutiny and at no cost. Anyone with unwanted prescription drugs is encouraged to drop them off to the SPD April 30. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will then incinerate the pharmaceuticals.

The DEA says the event, known as the National Pill Take Back Initiative, is in response to a growing problem with prescription-drug abuse.

According to SPD’s Sgt. Norm Leong, a 2009 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said that roughly 7 million Americans have problems with prescription-drug abuse.

“Prescription-drug abuse is on the rise nationally,” added Casey McEnry, a spokeswoman for the DEA, noting that the number of emergency-room visits due to prescription drugs has skyrocketed in recent years. “We are also finding a lot of teenagers are getting into their parent’s medicine cabinets, so we want to give people a safe way to dispose of [the drugs]” (see “The OxyContin kid,” by Cosmo Garvin, SN&R Feature, January 27).

At the moment, the most common drug disposal method is to flush them down the drain. The Bay Area Pollution Prevention Group also says that drugs enter the environment through industrial discharges and commercial agriculture, particularly manure from animals.

Once down the drain or flushed away, the pharmaceuticals then enter the food chain through wastewater (water treatment facilities are unable to process synthetic pollutants such as pills). From there, even small concentrations of hormones, antibiotics and antidepressants can affect the development of fish, though the long-term consequences are unknown. More immediately, biologists have found such as things as the masculinization of fish, and in the Potomac River near Washington, D.C., there have been cases of transgendered fish. The U.S. Geological Survey has also found traces of pharmaceuticals in 80 percent of 139 streams in 30 states it sampled.

“The drug take-back day provides an excellent alternative to disposing of unwanted or unused prescription drugs rather than flushing them down the toilet,” McEnry explained to SN&R.

For those who can’t make it April 30, she also recommended crushing unused pills and mixing the drugs with kitty litter or coffee grounds before disposing of them. McEnry also said the DEA plans to similar drug take back events every six months. Individuals can also visit the DEA website,, to learn about a drug disposal event closest to them.

“No questions asked,” McEnry promised.