Jackson County Sheriff’s Office will accept and dispose of drugs | News

ByDonald L. Leech

Mar 16, 2022

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is hosting a drug take-back event to help residents properly dispose of unused drugs.

Operation Medicine Drop will collect unused over-the-counter and prescription medications on Tuesday, March 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Jackson County Senior Center at 100 County Services Park, Sylva.

“Leaving unused medications in your home leaves them available for others to accidentally overdose, misuse or abuse,” Chief Deputy Matt Wike said. “Just because you live alone doesn’t mean someone visiting your home can’t take your unused prescription medication. Leaving them unused in a medicine cabinet, kitchen cabinet, or other common areas of your home allows someone you may not suspect to pick them up.

Once the drugs are collected, they are repackaged and brought to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation who contracts with an incineration company to destroy the drugs.

Those who drop off medication do not necessarily need to remove their personal information from the packaging.

“To save space when packing them for destruction, we throw the pills into a larger container and destroy the individual bottles or boxes,” Wike said. “We are taking steps to ensure that bottles are not left with identifying information of the owner for others to collect.”

Anyone who is not comfortable leaving their container can pour pills into a bag provided by the sheriff’s office.

Those unable to make it to the event can drop off unwanted or expired medication in a drop box open year-round in the JCSO lobby.

Wike estimates that the JCSO has 500 pounds of pills a year.

Operation Medicine Drop is designed to keep prescription drugs out of the wrong hands, but it also has a lesser-known purpose: to keep drugs out of the water supply.

When people do not know how or where to properly dispose of unused or expired medicines, they sometimes flush them down the toilet. This can create environmental problems.

Studies have found traces of drugs such as opioids, antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines and other drugs in underground and municipal water supplies.

It is possible that long-term exposure to such substances could harm humans, but not much is known at this time.

“To date, there are no studies documenting harm to humans from trace amounts of pharmaceuticals and personal care products measured in water, but there are animal studies that indicate possible concerns,” according to the National Poison Control website.

Some people could be exposed to even higher levels of drugs in the water supply due to their consumption of fish and wild game.

Two studies of aquatic life in Washington’s Puget Sound found drugs in bay mussels and salmon.

A two-day study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center found drugs such as the antidepressant Prozac and the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor and cocaine in chinook salmon. The study also found over-the-counter drugs in the fish.

Some drugs in the water are thought to come from compounds that human bodies do not break down and are excreted through urine and feces. But it’s also been linked to improper disposal of drugs that go through septic tanks and seep into groundwater or municipal sewers, Poison Control said.

Jackson County has so far had no such problems, Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority Director Daniel Manring said.

“It’s thankfully not something we found in our water testing at any level,” he said. “The Environmental Protection Agency constantly releases guidelines and new testing requirements that are followed by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the regulatory agency for our water operations. These required tests are summarized in an annual report which you can view on our website.

“Fortunately, our water source comes from a very clean river with relatively little upstream development compared to many systems across the country, so we don’t have some of the same issues that others face.”

However, Manring could not say for sure what drugs, if any, were in Jackson County water.

“To my knowledge, North Carolina does not require any specific testing for any of these in particular,” he said.

Education on the proper disposal of medications is important to help control the possibility of medications ending up in water supplies.

“Bottom line, never flush or throw anything down a drain that doesn’t belong there,” Manring said.

“If you don’t have a place to properly dispose of unwanted medication between drop-off days, Poison Control offers these guidelines: Remove prescription medication from the original container and mix it with something like litter or used coffee grounds to deter anyone tempted to take drugs in the trash Place the mixture in a container such as an empty margarine tub, coffee jar, or zip-lock bag. medications have been mixed and sealed, they are safe to dispose of in the trash Remove or cover personal information including Rx number on empty containers.