On Saturday, April 24, Greencastle is hosting one of its Drug Take Back Days. The event was first organized in 2010 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a federal agency that works with specific local governments to run the Drug Takeback Days.
The Drug Take Back Day will be run by the Greencastle Police Department. According to Police Chief Thomas Sutherlin, “It’s going to be held at the Greencastle High School, located at 910 East Washington St. and we’re going to be there from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.”
“It allows people that have unused or expired or unneeded medications in their medicine cabinets -- it gives them an opportunity to clean those medicine cabinets out,”
Sutherlin explained. “They can get them to us and we can get them to the proper hands and get them destroyed.”
Drug take back programs aid the proper disposal of prescription medications. Improper disposal can lead to prescription drug pollution, a form of pollution that results when medications get into water sources.
Leigh Boerner of PBS wrote, “The vernacular for many years was to flush unwanted medications down the toilet.” Programs like Greencastle’s Drug Takeback Day provided community members an option for proper disposal.
As a Harvard Health publication noted, though some amounts of medication are processed through water reclamation, “sewage treatment plants are not currently designed to remove pharmaceuticals from water. Nor are the facilities that treat water to make it drinkable.”
According to Sutherlin, “it’s just a drive-through process.” People drive to the school’s entrance where the officers will “take the medications from them. There’s no questions asked from the community.” After the event, all medications will be turned over to the DEA.
Though Sutherlin said he had never seen it in his time working the event, community members can drop off illegal substances without repercussion. “If somebody is addicted to cocaine and they want to get off their addiction and they want to bring cocaine to us, no questions asked, it’s a get out of jail free card that day, you just bring the stuff to us and you keep driving,” Sutherlin said.
“Since law enforcement is there, we can take controlled substances,” Sutherlin added, and explained that individuals could turn in expired or unused over-the-counter medications or prescriptions -- including prescriptions for pets or other animals. The police department cannot, however, accept needles or other sharp objects, such as needles for insulin injections.
The Drug Take Back Day is open to anyone in the community. “It’s been very successful,” Sutherlin said.
At an event on Oct. 24, 2020, Greencastle collected 321.75 lbs of medication. Since the event’s start, Greencastle has collected 5,050.25 lbs of medication.
The Greencastle police department also has a container available in their station where people can drop off medications between the Drug Take Back Days, that’s operating for us 365 days a year,” Sutherlin said. He described it as a “mail-box,” where people could put medication in and it would be stored until it is unlocked to be weighed and turned in.