With the growing trend of the illegal use of prescription drugs, local officials are encouraging area residents to be part of the solution and participate in National Prescription Take Back Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
The national event, coordinated by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, will give those with prescription drugs that are expired or no longer used the opportunity to dispose of them safely. Locally the take-back is organized by the Youth Development Task Force of the county Health Improvement Coalition.
"It's giving people the opportunity to get those things out of their medicine cabinets," said South Williamsport Police Chief Robert F. Hetner.
From left, South Williamsport Police Chief Robert F. Hetner; Charles E. Kiessling Jr., Lycoming County coroner; Geoffrey S. Arthur, executive director of Valley Prevention Services Inc.; and James Bower, of East Lycoming School District and Take Back Day committee chairman, speak about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs.
Prescription drugs can be dropped off at one of six locations in the county "with no questions asked."
James Bower, of the East Lycoming School District and chairman of the Take Back Day committee, said with the easy accessibility of these drugs, there's beginning to be an increased misuse of them.
"It's really hit the radar screens, so to speak, for the youth of our community," added Geoffrey S. Arthur, executive director of Valley Prevention Services Inc.
Situations where prescription drugs are misused, sold or stolen seem to be popping up more often, Hetner said. And Charles E. Kiessling Jr., county coroner, has seen the deadly effects of this trend first-hand.
Although some see these drugs as medicine, the illegal use of them can cause respiratory depression, which can lead to cardiac arrest, if not used properly as prescribed to them by a physician.
Kiessling reported 12 drug-related deaths last year in the county and "more seem to be (as a result of) these prescription drugs." There have been four similar deaths so far this year, he said.
And, while death can occur just from misusing prescriptions, Kiessling added that chances increase when individuals mix them with alcohol. Hetner agreed and said he's encountered several individuals who have tried to drive while under the influence of illegal prescriptions.
Hetner said first responders are having problems when trying to help individuals who have misused prescriptions, as often times they're not aware of what they've taken.
"We deal with these individuals that are in the ambulance (from illegally taking prescriptions) and you ask them what they took, and they can't even tell us," Hetner said.
Leaving these drugs in homes increases the chances that a child or friend can take a pill or two with no one noticing, Arthur explained.
"What's prescribed for that individual is prescribed only for that individual," he said. "Most people are getting them out of someone's medicine cabinet."
"It's that kind of experimentation that can kill somebody," Hetner added.
Last year's event collected about 470 pounds of prescription drugs, Arthur reported. He hopes this year will be just as successful.
"That's amazing to me when I think what one pill weighs, 1 ounce or less. That's a lot of (prescription drugs)," Arthur said.
Bower said he's handed out flyers to most local pharmacies about the event and is hoping that educating people about the dangers of misusing these drugs will lead to the trend going down.
Hetner added that at the end of the day it's all about personal responsibility when it comes to disposing of old prescription drugs.
"It's the way the community can help take care of the community," he said.
Those not wishing to leave their prescriptions in the bottle with personal information on it can remove the label, cross it out with marker or place the pills in another container.
"We don't want people to be reluctant to take things in because their information is on there," Hetner said.
A DEA agent will collect the prescription drugs and incinerate them.
Residents may drop off their prescription drugs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the following locations:
Williamsport Bureau of Police, 245 W. Fourth St.
South Williamsport Police Department, 331 W. Southern Ave., South Williamsport
State police barracks, 899 Cherry St., Montoursville
Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Department, 129 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Jersey Shore
Muncy Police Department, 14 N. Washington St., Muncy
Hughesville Police Department, borough office, 147 S. Fifth St., Hughesville