Texas counties implement prescription drug disposal program

A program to safely dispose of unwanted medication is expanding with the aim of helping curb prescription drug abuse and overdoses

By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times

EL PASO, Texas — An El Paso program to safely dispose of unwanted medication is expanding with the aim of helping curb prescription drug abuse and overdoses.

The El Paso, Socorro and Horizon City police departments in conjunction with the Aliviane behavioral-health agency have begun distributing free prescription drug disposal bags at their police stations.

The Deterra bags use a drug-deactivation system that makes it safe to throw away pills and other medicine, police and drug-treatment officials said at a Tuesday news conference at El Paso Police Headquarters.

"We do have an issue of prescription medication misuse in El Paso," said Susie Villalobos, an evaluator for Aliviane, which runs drug prevention, intervention and treatment programs.

"(In 2017), there were over 333 instances where an individual in our El Paso community overdosed on a prescription medication," Villalobos said.

Villalobos explained that the 333 cases were when paramedics used the opioid antidote Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan.

The opioid overdoses were "one for almost every day of a year," she said.

The El Paso County Office of the Medical Examiner reported 103 drug-related deaths in 2017, the most recent data available.

A National Safety Council report found that the lifetime odds of dying of an accidental opioid overdose are now higher than the odds of dying in an auto accident due to the national opioid crisis.

The prescription disposal drug bag program began in September with the El Paso Police Department, police spokesman Darrel Petry said. More than 75 percent of the initial batch of bags have been handed out, he added.

Disposal pouches aid drug-abuse prevention

The bags are available with no questions asked at all El Paso Police Department regional command centers and the police stations in Socorro and Horizon City.

Pills are placed in a pouch with warm water, which activates chemicals that make the drugs unusable.

Proper disposal helps keep opioids and other prescriptions from falling into the hands of children, teens, addicts and others those who could misuse them and helps protect the environment.

Horizon City police Chief Michael McConnell and acting Socorro police Chief Eddie Smith both said that the disposal bags will help residents in their cities.

"We have a lot of elderly people in the city of Socorro that pass away," Smith said. "The family doesn't know what to do with their pills, their prescriptions. This is going to be an excellent way of disposing of those prescriptions rather than just dunking them down a toilet."

Copyright 2019 El Paso Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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