CARY — The town’s police department has become the latest in the Triangle to provide a permanent place for residents to drop off unused prescription and over-the-counter medications.
The goal of the so-called “pill drop boxes” is to make it easier for people to get rid of unwanted medications and keep them out of the hands of anyone who might take them accidentally or be tempted to abuse them. The boxes also give people an alternative to flushing medications down a toilet or sink, keeping them out of the water supply.
Local law enforcement agencies periodically sponsor medicine collections, but a growing number say they can do a better job by providing a drop box at the local police station. Since the beginning of last year, police departments in Holly Springs, Apex, Clayton and Durham have put secure pill drop boxes in their lobbies.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper, who sponsors biannual medicine collections around the state, would like to see at least one permanent pill drop box in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. As last count, there are about 35 boxes around the state, said Cooper’s spokeswoman, Noelle Talley.
The medicine drop events are good for drawing attention to the importance of safely disposing of medications, Talley said, but “we’d like to see people be able to do that all year around.”
Talley said the state may seek federal money to help pay for pill drop boxes. Another source is the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, a non-profit organization that provides drop boxes to local law enforcement agencies.
The association provided a box to Apex police late last year. Since Jan. 1, people have deposited more than 600 pounds of pills and other medications into the box, said Capt. Ann Stephens.
“It’s more than we expected. We’re averaging 25 pounds every two weeks,” Stephens said. “We definitely have to empty it that often, otherwise people can’t get anything in there.”
Durham police put a box in their lobby early this summer and have received more than 250 pounds, mostly over-the-counter medications, said spokeswoman Kammie Michael.
The misuse and abuse of prescription medications has become a national public health problem. The federal Centers for Disease Control says drug overdose deaths have more than tripled nationwide in the past decade, largely because of prescription painkillers. Prescription drug overdoses killed about 1,000 people in North Carolina last year, according to the state Division of Public Health.