WILKES-BARRE — Don’t drop that stash in the trash.
In an effort to curb abuse and improper disposal of unwanted, unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter medications, state officials have launched a new program to place secure, anonymous drug drop boxes around the state, including three in Luzerne County.
“The best way to avoid the risks of prescription drug abuse, especially for children and teenagers, is to safely dispose of medications when they are unused or expired,” District Attorney Stefanie J. Salavantis said.
And because many medications can be harmful to the environment and water supply, officials also advise against tossing them in with household garbage or down the drain, Salavantis said.
Under Gov. Tom Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania drug take-back initiative, up to 250 PA MedReturn drop boxes will be installed statewide, including at locations in Wilkes-Barre, Pittston and Hazleton.
According to statistics cited by Salavantis, an estimated one in five high school students have abused prescription drugs, and 75 percent of people who abuse prescription pain relievers say they got them from friends or relatives.
Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem and has been classified an epidemic by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Salavantis said.
“In recent years, district attorneys across Pennsylvania have seen an increase in teenage pill parties, driving under the influence and a dramatic increase in the use of heroin all related to prescription drug addiction,” she added.
The $125,000 program is being funded through a $100,000 grant by the state Commission on Crime and Delinquency and $25,000 from the Pittsburgh-based Staunton Farm Foundation, a state spokeswoman said. There is no cost to municipalities or counties.
The boxes are checked on a regular basis by a county detective and drugs collected from the boxes will be destroyed, Salavantis said.
“These PA MedReturn drop boxes offer the public a safe, accessible, and convenient alternative to keeping prescription drugs that aren’t being used in the home where they can get in the wrong hands or be disposed of in landfills or down the drain where they can end up in the water supply,” she said.