Those drug drop-boxes at area police stations are proving to be a big hit, with hundreds of pounds of cast-off pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medications being hauled off for incineration, out of the hands of potential abusers — and out of landfills and water-treatment plants.
Installed in the past eight months, the tamper-proof, steel drop-boxes are preventing abuse that stems from drugs being pilfered during parties, open houses and visits by friends and relatives, says Talent Police Chief Mike Moran.
Such drugs are sold in schools, says Moran, especially oxycontin, the prize prescription drug sought by pilferers.
"The boxes have proven very popular," says Deputy Medford Police Chief Tim Doney. "We have to empty it a couple times a week, and there's 400 or 500 pounds in there. I didn't think there would be such a big turnout. This is a real shocker."
The drop-box trend started when Medford chiefs, at a convention in Florida, won a drawing for a Med-Return box and set it up in the city hall lobby last November.
Ashland's box has two 27-quart tubs that get full twice a week and must be emptied, says Ashland Deputy Police Chief Corey Falls.
"People used to leave these drugs around the house," Falls said, "and this gives them the opportunity to dispose of them safely."
The drugs are taken to hazardous-material disposal sites, approved by the Department of Environmental Quality, on the coast and in the Willamette Valley, with police from Medford, Talent and Ashland, and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department taking turns driving — with two officers for security, says Moran.
"It solves a lot of problems for us. We've been looking for something like this," says Moran.
When Recology Ashland Sanitary Service heard about the need, they promptly fabricated two big, steel drop-boxes for Talent and Ashland free of charge.
"It was the right thing to do," says Risa Buck of Recology. "It's a huge concern for people, and we haven't had an appropriate place for them to go."
Getting drugs out of the waste chain prevents landfills from getting contaminated by drug residues, called "leachate," which settles to the bottom of landfills, Buck said. Such leachate must be taken to wastewater treatment plants, where it presents an added burden of purification before it can be released into streams.
"There's a concern, in theory, that it could get into the water table," says Moran.
The boxes have received no illicit drugs, says Doney, although someone stealthily dropped a bag of meth at the door when Medford police were doing a drug return at Rogue Valley Mall.
People drop an odd assortment of stuff in the boxes, including "sharps" (needles), lotions and pet medicines, says Doney. Any meds are acceptable, but Moran has a big sign saying not to drop sharps, thermometers, blood or infectious waste, hydrogen peroxide, aerosol cans, inhalers, food or vitamins.
Acceptable items include prescription or over-the-counter drugs, medication samples, pet meds, ointments, lotions and liquid medications in glass or leakproof containers.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at email@example.com.