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National Guard, police to destroy unused prescription drugs in collection effort

Written by Brett Sholtis, WITF News | Apr 25, 2019 11:15 PM
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Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers load bottled water onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter September 1 at Fort Indiantown Gap in preparation to depart for the Hurricane Harvey relief effort in Texas. (Courtesy: U.S. National Guard photo by Sgt. Zane Craig)

(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.    

Those seeking to dispose of unused drugs should visit the department's website for a list of drop off sites.

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