Operation UNITE staff encourage utilization of UNITE drop-boxes for unused medication

Published: Apr. 4, 2019 at 8:43 PM EDT
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Operation UNITE is asking communities in the region to utilize their UNITE drop-boxes to safely dispose of unused medications.

Teens and young adults that admit to abusing prescription drugs say 70% of the time, easy access to prescription medication started their problem.

Operation UNITE staff point out that many unsecured store medications in purses and cabinets around their homes, which makes them easily accessible.

Which could make someone what Hale calls, and "accidental dealer."

"An accidental dealer is someone who unknowingly provides access to prescription or over-the-counter medication. That, they have stored in their medicine cabinet or their purse, or in a kitchen cabinet and it's not securely locked," says Hale.

But, improper disposal, like flushing medication down the toilet, is just as dangerous.

"We are having water samples that are showing that they are showing that there are medications and things that are in them," Hale says.

That's why Operation UNITE members started their UNITE dropboxes and spread them throughout the region.

Hale says they have now collected 13 tons of prescription pills since 2012.

"If you were to lay those out, pill by pill, side by side it's enough to cover half of a football field. One inch deep," she says.

There are now 41 permanent locations, including the London Police Department.

Police say there are several additional reasons why having medication can be dangerous.

"It gives opportunity for accidental use. Maybe you have toddlers or small children around that could have access to that medication," says Lieutenant Jessie Williams.

And, it could make you a target for burglaries, especially if someone in the home is elderly or sick.

Making it just as important to rid your home of any extra medication.

"It prevents them from being a victim, and it makes their home. More secure, more safe. For the people inside the home and the community," Williams adds.

Officers say they have several people come in every week, utilizing the boxes.

One of the reasons is because it is so simple and convenient to use. The other, they see how monitored the boxes are. Security cameras, officers, and dispatchers surround the boxes.

And, the handling of the unused medications is just as secure.

"It's packaged, it's sealed, it's weighed and then we make sure that it's destroyed. Just like using chain of custody for evidence," says Williams.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration partner with Operation UNITE and other agencies throughout the year for drug take-back days.

The next National Take-Back Day is April 27th.