Last Modified: Saturday, October 26, 2013 9:35 PM
For a few hours Saturday, state police and two Walgreens store managers helped people get rid of their old prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
State police have hosted the event, part of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, for several years now, and local participation has steadily grown, officials said.
Every few minutes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. a car pulled into the Troop D parking lot and the driver got out with bags or boxes of pills for disposal.
Sgt. James Anderson said he can see the value in the program, which was started by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He even took on an extra shift to make sure he was around during the day to help people dropping off medications.
“This is an environmentally friendly way to get rid of these unwanted, unneeded drugs,” he said. “It’s also a great way to keep these medications out of the hands of people who may try to abuse them.”
During April’s event, 742,000 pounds of prescription drugs were discarded at more than 5,800 sites operated by the DEA and state and local law enforcement agencies. All drugs collected are given to the DEA for disposal.
Anderson welcomed everyone who stopped in and thanked them for dropping off their medicine. Some chatted as they dumped pills into the boxes. Others just discarded the medicine, thanked everyone and left. Several residents had a story behind what they were getting rid of and why.
Danny Sharp said he lives an hour outside of Lake Charles. He said he was in town taking his son to dialysis and decided to drop off some of the old drugs from his medicine cabinets on the way. Most of the pills he put into the boxes were for his wife, who died earlier this year.
“We don’t get the newspaper out where I live, but I happened to catch some information about this on the television,” Sharp said. “I grabbed everything that was expired and put it in a box. Some of the medicines aren’t even on the market anymore.”
He said his wife died of cardiac arrest in May and had battled several other illnesses at the time. After her death, he said, he didn’t know when, if ever, he would go through all of her old medications.
“I never really knew when to go through it,” Sharp said. “I guess I finally thought it was a good time to clean out those old medicines.”
State police partner with Walgreens to help spread the word about the event. Local stores give information to customers and display times and dates on their reader boards. Anderson said the stores deserve a great deal of credit for the consistent turnout.
Jamie Schior, the manager for the Walgreens on Lake Street, said it’s important to get the word out for such a unique endeavor.
“We see a lot of our target demographic here, which is basically just the people who go to the pharmacy regularly for their prescription medications. They need a place to get rid of them,” Schior said. “There’s no other service like this. It’s by far the most convenient.”
Keith Girlinghouse, manager of the Walgreens on Country Club Road, said he can see how the program can be more than just a regular service. It can be therapeutic for some, and it’s a great service to local nursing homes, he said.
“There have been nursing homes that come in with trash bags filled with prescription medications,” Girlinghouse said.
“There are other services for people to mail their medications back, but not all of them can be mailed. This is easier, and we see a lot of people that have come before in the past that come again.”
Stephanie Mills is a nurse who works with patients with disabilities. The trunk of her vehicle was loaded with boxes filled with her patients’ old and discarded medications.
“This is the first year I’ve done this. I gathered all of the nurses and had them get together the medications we could get rid of,” Mills said. “It really just gives us a safe way to get rid of the drugs.”
As the group organized the medicines collected by Mills, Schior stopped and thought out loud: “Just imagine if everyone just flushed this stuff down the toilet. Picture all of these medications just out there like that.”