This Saturday, April 29, is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, a day intended to promote the safe disposal of unused prescription drugs while raising awareness of the potential for misuse and abuse when medications are left sitting in medicine cabinets and closet shelves.
In St. Louis County, residents can safely turn in expired or unneeded medicine year-round at 12 different locations county-wide through the Take it the Box program, managed in cooperation with area law enforcement by the County's Environmental Services Department or the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.
Locations managed by WLSSD include the Public Safety Building in Duluth, the West Duluth Police Substation, the Hermantown Police Department and the Proctor Police Department. Locations managed by St. Louis County include the Babbitt Police Department, Chisholm Police Department, Ely City Hall, Eveleth Police Department, Floodwood City Hall, Gilbert Police Department and the St. Louis County Sheriff's Offices in Hibbing and Virginia. All locations accept medications Monday through Friday during regular office hours.
"It used to be that we wanted people to discard their medications properly to prevent environmental contamination and accidental poisonings," said Mark St. Lawrence, Environmental Services Director. "Those are certainly still concerns, but the growing problem is prescription medications - especially opioid painkillers - being stolen and used by others. So we encourage people to get rid of their unused medicine at one of our safe and convenient locations."
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the non-medical use of prescription drugs is now the second most common form of drug abuse in America. Meanwhile, medications flushed down the drain have been linked to adverse effects in fish and other aquatic wildlife.
All medication drop offs are confidential. Medicines should be left in original containers whenever possible and sealed in a clear plastic bag. The patient's name can be crossed out. The name of the medication should be written on the bag if it's not identifiable from the container. All medicine should be kept out of reach of children while being stored or transferred.
Items not accepted include needles and syringes, thermometers and medications from businesses.
The eight Take it to the Box drop off sites managed by St. Louis County collected 1,243 pounds of pharmaceutical waste in 2016, a nearly 10 percent increase compared to the 1,136 pounds collected in 2015. All medications collected are transported by the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and incinerated at a facility in Polk County.