SAC “Take Back” Collects Over 100 Pounds of Drugs

On Saturday, July 30, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. the Substance Abuse Council collected 109 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter medication at the free “Take Back” event at WalMart at 6020 B Dr. S in Battle Creek, Michigan.  The amount collected, 109 pounds, is equivalent to the weight of approximately 54,500 pills.  

Of the 109 pounds collected, 3 were classified as narcotics.  “Considering the fact that these are the prescription drugs most likely to be abused, 3 pounds is an impressive amount.  Those pills filled a gallon size plastic bag that was very difficult to close,” said Heather Vought, Substance Abuse Council Program Manager. Current trends of prescription drug abuse in Calhoun County, according to the 2010 Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth show a troubling number of local 7th graders using painkillers such as OxyContin, Codeine, Percocet, or Tylenol III without a doctor’s prescription and accidental overdose is also the primary cause of death in Calhoun County substance abuse related deaths for years 2008 and 2009.  To date, “Take Backs” coordinated by the Substance Abuse Council have collected over 369 pounds of medications; the equivalent weight of approximately 324,500 500 milligram pills. 

The oldest medication collected was prescribed in 1978.   

Medicines accepted at the Take Back include: prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, pet medications, medication samples, medicated ointments or lotions, inhalers, and liquid medication, such as cough syrup, in glass or leak-proof containers.  Items ineligible for collection include: bloody or infectious waste, empty containers, hydrogen peroxide, aerosol cans, and thermometers.  Bloody or infectious waste must be handled by medical professionals only.  

The July 30 “Take Back” is part of an ongoing effort by the Substance Abuse Council to reverse and reduce the rising rates of prescription drug abuse in Calhoun County.  This steady increase in medicine abuse is of such concern that an official action plan to address the epidemic has been developed through the White House.  According to an April Office of National Drug Policy press release, “Prescription drug abuse is our Nation’s fastest-growing drug problem. The number of people who have unintentionally overdosed on prescription drugs now exceeds the number who overdosed during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s and the black tar heroin epidemic of the 1970’s combined. In 2007, approximately 27,000 people died from unintentional drug overdoses, driven mostly by prescription drugs. Additionally, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of Americans in 2009 aged 12 and older currently abusing pain relievers has increased by 20 percent since 2002. Further, visits by individuals to hospital emergency rooms involving the misuse or abuse of pharmaceutical drugs have doubled over the past five years.”  Additionally, the state of Florida is now seeing a significant increase in babies born addicted to prescription drugs with “nearly 1,400 born suffering from drug withdrawal syndrome in 2010, a fourfold increase since 2003.”

The “Take Back” event also helps to prevent environmental pollution.  “We have to thank Calhoun County Recycling and Battle Creek Area Clean Water Partners for promoting this event on their Facebook pages.  They did that on their own accord and this is how we make lasting change in our community, by working together,” said SAC Executive Director Dawn R. Smith.  “We are looking for ways to partner together in the future to provide more collections.”

 Other community partners assisting with the event were: Walmart, providing the collection site, Pharmacist Tom Olds and pharmacy intern Cassie Payne; Emmett Township Police Department lending the services of Officer Shane Schwarz, and volunteer Deb Evans.  Dawn R. Smith and Heather Vought represented the Substance Abuse Council at the event.  WBCK 95.3 also supported the event by providing on air interview time on Friday the 29th.  Thus far, the Substance Abuse Council is able to provide the “Take Back” services free of charge to the community because of these collaborative partnerships.

 The next confirmed “Take Back” date being coordinated by the Substance Abuse Council is October 29, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in conjunction with the DEA’s nationwide effort.  Locations and details will be announced soon.  On April 30, 2011, the Substance Abuse Council offered the first county-wide collection concurrent with the DEA and disposed of 218 pounds of medications.    

Those who were unable to attend the Take Back on July 30th are encouraged to keep unwanted or expired medications secured and participate in upcoming Take Backs.  “Securing and monitoring medications is a very important part of prevention.  We need to make sure our medications don’t get into the wrong hands,” said Smith.  Lock boxes used to secure medications cost between $20 and $100.

 If you must dispose of medications, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) developed the following federal guidelines for proper disposal of prescription drugs: 

  • Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so. 
  • If no instructions are given, throw the drugs in the household trash after taking them out of their original containers, mixing them with an undesirable substance such as coffee grounds or kitty litter and placing them in a sealed container.  Doing so makes the medication less appealing to children, pets, and anyone who may be going through the trash to find drugs. 

For more information about prescription drug and medicine abuse in Calhoun County, contact the Substance Abuse Council at (269)968-4699,, or find them on Facebook.