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Event helps residents dispose of unused medications

Rose Ann Miele, coordinator for Boulder City’s chapter of the Nevada Community Prevention Coalition, sat in the heat outside of the town’s police station Friday morning waiting to help those looking to turn in their prescription drugs.

Her effort was part of NCPC’s Drug Take Back Day, where the county’s coalition chapters helped local residents properly dispose of medications they no longer needed.

Miele said only four people came to the police station to turn in pills during last year’s event, but this year was different. After the first hour was finished, seven people had already stopped by the police station to turn in their pills.

The majority of them were senior citizens, some of whom came in with zippered storage bags full of prescription drugs. Miele said about half of the people she spoke with didn’t know there was a place in town where people could dispose of their unwanted pharmaceuticals.

That was one of the day’s objectives, she said, informing the public that the place to get rid of pills is the yellow box inside of the police station’s lobby.

Miele said they surpassed their goal for the day, more than doubling last year’s effort and completely filling the box at the police station.

The day’s other objective, she said, was simply getting the prescription drugs out of the house.

“If you believe that any medication that a health care provider prescribes is 100 percent safe, your attitude is, “Why in the world would I want to drop off my drugs at a police station?’ ” Miele asked.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 44 people overdose every day on prescription drugs. Since 1999, the amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has quadrupled.

Boulder City is no stranger to substance abuse. Through various donations, Judge Victor Miller has helped to lead a drug court that assists substance abusers through counseling and rehabilitation.

The Breaking the Cycle program, as it is know, began in August, and typically has about five participants at any given time, Miller said. Throughout the yearlong treatment, participants are drug tested twice a week. Every participant starts on a house arrest program, and all of them must wear GPS bracelets.

Miele said one of the most pivotal points in correcting a problem is acknowledging that there is one.

“You have to be made aware of problem situations. If you don’t know a problem exists, how can you help to solve it?” she asked. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing about problems that you can help change. But you’ve got to know about them first.”

An additional message she tried to convey was the hit the environment takes when prescription drugs are flushed down the toilet.

“You don’t throw paint in the water, and you don’t throw oil in the water. They’re like any other substance that can pollute the water,” she said. “That’s the last thing we want.”

Bronson Mack, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, emphasized the importance of not flushing prescription drugs down the toilet in order to maintain the quality of the area’s water.

“Disposal of medication via flushing is a contributor toward the pollution of water systems,” he said. “All of the compounds that are used in the manufacturing of medications aren’t fully removed. Those compounds can find their way into the water.”

Though Drug Take Back Day was just that, one day, Miele said it will take a communitywide effort over the long run to fully correct the problem.

“If it’s wrong, let’s work on changing it,” she said. “You’re not going to think about changing it if you don’t think it’s an issue. That’s where your attitude comes in.”

Contact reporter Steven Slivka at sslivka@bouldercityreview.com or 702-586-9401. Follow him on Twitter @StevenSlivka.

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