By now, you’ve probably heard about Drug Take-Back Day, a biannual event that allows you to drop off any unwanted, unused or expired medications you may have stored in your medicine cabinet. What you may not realize, however, is just how important it is to dispose of these medications the right way. On the one hand, it’s environmentally conscious. You’re keeping the medicines out of the water supply by handing them over to law enforcement instead of flushing them or tossing them in the trash. On the other hand, getting rid of unused or unwanted medications helps keep our community safe. Prescription drug abuse is a national epidemic with effects right here in Blount County. Events such as Drug Take-Back Day help keep prescriptions off the street, and out of the wrong hands.
“When people have prescriptions filled, they may not use the entire amount before it expires,” said Jessica Stith Belitz with the Blount County Community Health Initiative’s Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team (SAPAT). “Some medications include specific instructions from a doctor to take ‘as needed,’ which can lead to leftover pills or medicines. It’s critical that those medications be disposed of properly. Having pills or other medicines around increases the risk of a small child or a pet accidentally ingesting them, reduces your risk of burglary or home invasion, and limits access to them from young people who may be looking to experiment with prescription drugs,” she explained.
Belitz says the Drug Take-Back program has seen growth every year. “Although we have a 24-7 medication disposal box in the 24-hour lobby of the Blount County Justice Center, community members enjoy the ease of dropping off their meds at the events, as you don't even have to get out of your vehicle,” Belitz said. “Also, our events are part of a nationwide campaign that finds people all over the country taking part in cleaning out their medicine cabinets and working toward a solution for the growing prescription drug abuse problem,” she explained. “When you pull up to the event, a law enforcement representative will walk up to your vehicle and take all of your medications, no questions asked. The medications then are separated from their packaging, and law enforcement officials dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way. As more and more communities are realizing the importance of this program and joining in, awareness continues to grow. Locally, I definitely think this is a program that our community members have embraced, and the turnout at the events and the amount we take in at the permanent medication disposal box really reflect that,” she said. “I think our local program is so successful because SAPAT volunteers, law enforcement agencies and area pharmacies work hard to get the word out to as many people as possible,” she added.
SAPAT and the Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force will sponsor a Drug Take-Back Day event this Saturday, Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Blount County Justice Center located at 926 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville. All medication drop-offs are anonymous, and no questions will be asked.