October 17, 2013
By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff Writer
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 17, 2013) -- Although flu season is upon us, Fort Rucker is bringing back a program designed to take unneeded medication out of the cabinets to fight drug abuse.
Fort Rucker will participate in the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Drug Take-Back Day Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the main post exchange, according to Jesse Hunt, Army Substance Abuse Program prevention coordinator.
"This program is really simple," said Hunt. "The individual will take their medication to one of the drop points and drop them off. We're trying to clean out the cabinets so that [these unused prescription drugs] don't become an attractive item for drug abuse."
"I think it's a great program and opportunity for people to take their expired drugs and get rid of them," said Jeanetta Sheppard, Army Substance Abuse Program manager. "A lot of times, people don't know what to do with (their old medications), so this is a good opportunity for them to discard them properly. (The program) is a good thing, and it's something we should continue to do from here on out."
Last year, the DEA reportedly collected almost 500,000 pounds of prescription medication in more than 5,263 locations across the U.S., and according to the 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 6 million Americans Abuse prescription drugs.
There are three other locations that people can drop off their unused or unwanted medications, which include Daleville Grocery Outlet parking lot, Enterprise police station's hallway entrance and the Dothan police station's walkway entrance.
This will be Fort Rucker's fifth time participating in the program, which is in place to help promote awareness about drug abuse, as well as educate people on the proper ways to use their medications.
"People need to know when to take their medications properly," said Hunt. "They need to know where they are on the pain scale and decide if they really need that medication or not," adding that people shouldn't take medications just because they have them, but make informed decisions whether it's the right choice.
People should be taking "get well" doses of medication, not the "get high" doses, which can lead to addiction, he said.
"People should shoot for a pain level of two or three on the scale, not for a pain level of zero," Hunt explained, adding that trying to use medication to get to the point of no pain is a dangerous road that could lead to addiction.
Just because a person is prescribed a certain type of medication doesn't mean they must take it, he said, and another reason people should drop off their unused medications is to ask questions.
"People can ask the (Fort Rucker criminal investigation command) officer or officer on duty at the drop-off points about anything they have questions about and they should be able to answer just about anything they need," said Hunt.
Some of the questions people might have about medications are how long they last, said Hunt, who explained that it depends on the type of medication.
"Most pain relievers will probably still be good after a couple years, but things like antibiotics start to break down and lose their potency," he said, adding that medications that people are unsure about should be properly disposed of.
"This is why this is a good program because you can't just throw these things in the trash," said Hunt. "You shouldn't dump it down the toilet or throw it in the trash because it's unsafe for the environment and prying eyes that might dig it out of the trash."
Medications must be properly disposed of because if they are thrown in the trash or flushed down the drain, they can contaminate the environment and even seep into drinking water, he added.
Once the medications are collected, they will be incinerated, and what's left or cannot be incinerated will be properly disposed of in accordance with environmental law, he said.
Since police will be on hand at the drop points, some people may be hesitant when turning in their unused medications for fear of legal ramifications, but Hunt assures people that law enforcement is there only to make sure the medications are properly collected and disposed of.
They will not be checking people's personal belongings or anything of that nature, he said, and it is even safe for people to turn in medication that has been obtained illegally, and encourages people to do so.
"This is completely anonymous, people don't have to give their name or fill anything out," said Hunt. "They can just drop off their drugs and be on their way."