Local police join national push to "take back" prescription drugs


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Local police will participate in a national initiative on Saturday to help local citizens rid their medicine cabinets of old or unused prescription pills.

National Prescription Drug “Take-Back” Day is an annual initiative organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy in which law-enforcement officials collect expired or unwanted prescription medications to target the national issue of prescription-drug abuse.

According to the DEA, nonmedical use of prescription drugs is second to marijuana abuse across the nation.

“We treat prescription-drug abuse like any other crime, and from a medical standpoint, we treat it like any other substance abuse,” Coralville police officer Ben Hayden said.

Coralville police will be at Hy-Vee, 1914 Eighth St., and at both Walgreen locations, 102 Second St. and 2751 Heartland Drive, in Coralville from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Iowa City police will be at the East Side Recycling Center, 2401 Scott Blvd. S.E., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

One Iowa City law-enforcement official said that finding individuals with prescription pills is something police see in the community.

“It certainly happens, and what we come across is people with prescription drugs in their pocket but without a prescription,” Iowa City police Sgt. Vicki Lalla said.

This is not the first year local police have participated in the initiative. The Coralville police have been involved with prescription-drug-abuse awareness for several years, Hayden said.

“Coralville has been a member of this initiative for several years, and we typically do one in the fall and in the spring,” he said.

Disposal of the drugs is also an issue that affects the community if not done properly, and the initiative hopes to target that.

“A lot of times, people just throw the pills in the trash can, and people can dig through the trash and take the pills,” Hayden said. “Sometimes, pills are also flushed down the toilet, and that can contaminate the water.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription-drug overdoses have tripled since 1990, and officials want to help prevent misuse of the drugs.

The most abused prescription drugs are pain relievers, said Doug Beardsley, the director of Johnson County Department of Public Health.

Hydrocodone, a painkiller, is the most prescribed drug in Iowa with more than 72 million doses in 2011, according to the 2013 Iowa Drug Control Strategy report.

“Pain relievers alter perceptions, alter motor skills, and even can alter your decision-making,” Beardsley said. “It could be damaging if you are taking something you are not supposed to.”

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