Craig police to host drug drop-off day

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If you go

What: National Prescription Drug Take-Back day

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday

Where: Centennial Mall, 1111 W. Victory Way

— Residents can drop-off unused over-the-counter and prescription medications. Needles, oxygen containers, illicit drugs, items containing mercury, chemotherapy or radioactive substances or pressurized containers or oxygen containers will not be accepted. The service is free and residents will remain anonymous.

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta hopes his police department can help impede a trend growing both nationally and locally.

According to a news release from the police department, a 2008 national survey found more Americans abused prescription drugs than those abusing cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin combined.

In hopes of deterring the problem locally, the police department has signed on to be part of National Prescription Drug Take-Back day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The police department will set up a medication collection point from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the east end of Centennial Mall, 1111 W. Victory Way.

The department is encouraging residents to drop off old, unused or unneeded prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Only tablets, capsules and solid forms of prescriptions or medications will be collected. Intravenous solutions, injectables and syringes will not be accepted. Police are also requesting identifying labels be removed from prescription containers.

The service is free and residents will remain anonymous.

According the release, unneeded and unused medications are a “public safety issue leading to accidental poisoning, overdoses and abuse.”

Vanatta said prescription drug abuse is growing among youth.

Many teenagers, Vanatta said, feel prescription drugs are “safer than street drugs” and have started stealing their parents’ prescriptions.

Vanatta said teens are hosting “skittle parties,” where they ingest a variety of pills to “get a buzz off of it.”

“They are just bringing prescription drugs from home, and when they get to the party, they just throw them all in a bowl and then people just go and take whatever they want,” he said. “Normally, (they) have no idea what they are taking.”

Vanatta said such parties could have serious effects on teens.

“People may be taking hallucinogens, they’re taking pain pills … and they could have allergic reactions to the pills that are fatal,” he said. “They can overdose by mixing pills that aren’t supposed to be mixed together.”

Vanatta said the problem with prescription drug abuse by teens has been around “quite a while,” but has become worse lately.

Sgt. John Forgay said the police department has not responded to a “skittle party” in Craig, but is “hearing rumors” of teens hosting them locally.

However, the department has had cases of teenagers selling or giving away prescription drugs at school.

“It is clearly becoming a problem,” Forgay said. “A lot of surveys are showing there are more instances of young people abusing prescription drugs because it turns out they are easier to get.”

Vanatta said the rise in prescription drug abuse could be a by-product of education about the dangers of methamphetamine use.

“The thought process is that, ‘Well this isn’t an illegal drug, it is a prescription drug, so it has got to be somewhat safe to take and we just get a buzz off of it,’” he said.

Moreover, Vanatta hopes the prescription drug take-back day and the department’s collection bin increases parents’ awareness of the need to “keep an eye on their medicine cabinets.”

“There will be a big container there and people can come up and throw their drugs in there,” he said. “There will be a law enforcement officer there and then we collect it all and hang on to it and the DEA comes and picks it up and destroys it.”

Forgay said the police department’s collection location is one of many available to residents around the state.

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