Colorado State Patrol trooper Matt Normandin, left, and Craig Police Department Sgt. John Forgay stand next to a deposit box Saturday during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day at the Centennial Mall parking lot. The two agencies hosted the event in which unused, unwanted or expired prescription drugs could be discarded.

Photo by Ben McCanna

Colorado State Patrol trooper Matt Normandin, left, and Craig Police Department Sgt. John Forgay stand next to a deposit box Saturday during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day at the Centennial Mall parking lot. The two agencies hosted the event in which unused, unwanted or expired prescription drugs could be discarded.

Craig Police collects 25 pounds of prescription meds

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As an investigations detective for the Craig Police Department, preventing dangerous substances from being readily available is important to Dale Secules.

But, the task is even more important to him in another capacity — as a father.

Secules was one of several law enforcement officers who spent Saturday collecting unwanted medications as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, in its second year in Craig. With a booth set up in the parking lot of Centennial Mall, representatives of the Craig Police Department and Colorado State Patrol collected more than 25 pounds of prescription drugs brought in by Craig residents.

Participants in the program were able to clean out their medicine cabinets and drop them in one of the three-foot-tall cardboard containers provided, no questions asked.

Sgt. John Forgay said the total the group amassed was slightly better than last year’s effort.

“We filled a whole box and started on another, which is better than we did last year,” he said. “We thought it was going to be a bust with the weather. It’s been a little bit of everything. Some people have even brought in shopping bags full. When you look at how little a bottle of pills weighs, it’s a lot.”

Last year, the DEA collected 121 tons of pills with the help of more than 3,000 law enforcement officials across the country. Not only does the effort prevent people from disposing of pills improperly — such as flushing them down toilets — but it also helps keep the substances away from minors and people other than the prescription holders.

“People just don’t know what to do with them and we give them an outlet for them,” Forgay said. “We’ve seen expiration dates from 2005, but really any of them aren’t good to have around if you don’t need them. There seems to be a fallacy that any prescription drugs are probably OK, but doctors prescribe things for individuals. What I take as a painkiller after surgery, a young person might take it and it’ll kill them.”

Forgay said the amount collected in Craig was about as much as he expected to see from the small community. He added that while other parts of the state bring in more materials, the threat of youths abusing pills — in instances like get-togethers referred to as “Skittles parties” by police — is just as real in Northwest Colorado.

“This morning, before I came down here, I heard about four high school kids in Denver who were in the hospital from prescription drugs,” Forgay said.

Secules, who is in his first year of participation, said he believes the program creates awareness of the dangers of misusing prescription materials.

“We’re probably not getting a huge amount of prescription drugs off the street as a whole, but it’s a start,” he said. “It gets the word out to youth and adults. Adults, I don’t think take it seriously enough just because it’s stuff that comes from doctors.”

As an investigations detective, Secules said he has not encountered prescription pill abuse, but he knows “it’s out there,” having seen the police logs in the office.

“There are cases with kids who just don’t have a clue about the dangerous results of what they’re taking,” he said.

As a father of three teenagers, Secules also has an interest in making sure prescription pills don’t fall into the wrong hands. He said he has made a point of impressing on his children how hazardous the results of abuse could be.

Forgay said many people who stopped by the booth were parents and other community members who thanked the officers for their efforts at raising awareness. However, he believes many people in the country still don’t take the threat seriously enough.

“I don’t think the population is yet in tune about it like they are with alcohol and illicit drugs,” he said. “That’s why the program is designed to get that out of common, everyday thinking. They are a danger.”

Forgay said he believes the community would benefit from having a Drug Take Back Day more than once a year, an idea the DEA is considering.

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