FILE PHOTO: Members of the U.S. Army of the Pennsylvania National Guard arrival by plane at a airport in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sunday, June 5, 2016. US troops arrived Sunday in Lithuania to participate in NATO maneuvers.
Brett Sholtis is a health reporter for WITF/Transforming Health. Sholtis is the 2021-2022 Reveal Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee for Mental Health Investigative Journalism with the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. His award-winning work on problem areas in mental health policy and policing helped to get a woman moved from a county jail to a psychiatric facility. Sholtis is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Pennsylvania Army National Guard Kosovo campaign veteran.
(Harrisburg) — Four out of five people who use heroin start out on prescription drugs. Preventing that from happening is one reason the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is working with the Pennsylvania National Guard and police to get rid of unused narcotics and other drugs.
“While they are necessary, when used correctly, they are dangerous substances. So there’s really no point in delaying getting these things out of your medicine cabinet,” said Pennsylvania Army National Guard Col. Richard Collage, who oversees the task force.
They’re also a potential public health problem if flushed down toilets, Collage said.
The only safe way to get rid of them is to incinerate them, he said. That’s what will happen to all those drugs, once his team of soldiers and other servicemembers picks them up.
It’s the fifth year the Guard’s Counterdrug Joint Task force is working with police to collect the drugs from more than 800 drop-off centers around the state, according to the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.
Since 2014, the state program has overseen the destruction of more than 537,000 pounds of prescription drugs, DDAP said in a news release.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency says, nationally, more than 900-thousand pounds of unused medication have been destroyed, preventing misuse and keeping it out of water systems.