Unused and expired prescription drugs can pose a problem not just by cluttering up the medicine cabinet but also by tempting those interested in abusing pain meds or other controlled substances.
Until recently, county residents had no way to dispose of these medications except by throwing them in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet, which national research recently showed was hazardous to the water supply.
Through the cooperative efforts of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Stop DWI program of the Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board, a drug take-back program has come to Dutchess County with collection sites in Red Hook, Hyde Park, Poughkeepsie, and Fishkill.
“It’s a really good thing,” Red Hook Police Sergeant Patrick Hildenbrand told the Observer. “A lot of people come in with old prescriptions from surgeries or medication they don’t want to take. One woman was cleaning out the basement of a veteran’s home that had just closed and dropped off five black garbage bags filled with prescription drugs.”
According to Hildenbrand, in the past three months, Red Hook police have collected 117 pounds of unused or outdated prescription medications. Since the program started last year, he said, they have collected 255 pounds of prescription drugs for disposal.
The collection box in Red Hook is located in the offices of the police department on the second floor of Village Hall and can be accessed by the public from 8am to midnight throughout the week. At all locations, only bottled pills are accepted; no liquids or needles are allowed.
Hildenbrand explained that when the drop box is full, the contents are placed in garbage bags and locked in the evidence room. From there, the bags are taken to the county’s Resource Recovery Agency and incinerated.
Lieutenant Robert Benson of Hyde Park sees the program as primarily a preventive measure against creating opportunities for addiction.
“One of the biggest things that we’ve found over the years is: You’ve hurt your back, you go to the hospital, get a prescription for the pain; you go home and take one or two and you leave it in the medicine cabinet thinking, ‘Now I have it if I need it.’ But kids are coming to your house and looking in your medicine cabinet, they may see it, experiment with it, take it, next thing you know someone is addicted,” he told the Observer.
A drop box was set up last November in the Hyde Park police department. There, participants put the medications—pills only — into plastic baggies which then go into a box with a slotted top, sort of like a mailbox, Benson said.
The box is in the lobby where it is accessible 24-7 and Benson said Hyde Park has collected about 166 pounds since November.
“You can do it anonymously, you don’t need to leave any information, anyone can come in,” he said, noting that he went through his own house and dropped things off.