Battling drug abuse

Battling drug abuse
Police departments across St. Charles County host drug take-back events to help fight prescription drug abuse

By Brett Auten

It’s all about having an impact on access.

Over the past weekend, the Lake Saint Louis Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) gave the public its 14th opportunity in seven years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of what could be dangerously expired, unused, and unneeded prescription drugs.  

One by one citizens brought pills – the DEA couldn’t accept liquids and needles – to the Lake Saint Louis Civic Center for the anonymous, no-questions-asked, free service. 

While the tallies from the past weekend weren’t available, a similar day in April netted 72 pounds while the fall session in 2016 brought in 127 pounds. 

Susie Ochs, the Lake St. Louis Community Resource Officer, said these twice-a-year have come to be good reminders for the community to dispose of the medicines. 

“When we first started, I thought after a year, or so it might die down,” Ochs said. “But it has been very consistent. We have collected a lot because it’s out there.”

This initiative addresses what Ochs calls a vital public safety and public health issue.  Medicines that set in cabinets are highly susceptible to misuse and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are increasingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. 

In St. Charles County, paramedics responded to 426 overdose calls in 2016 which was double the amount in 2008. And unfortunately this year, the numbers have increased 20 percent year to date compared to 2016. 

Studies have shown that a fair amount of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends. Also, the old-school method for disposing of unused medicines —flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash – pose potential hazards which make Prescription Drug Takebacks more important.

“These events are much needed and very successful,” Val Joyner, Public Affairs Officer for the St. Charles County Police Department, said. “Each time our agency participates, the community gave back a significant amount of unwanted, unused and expired prescription medication.”

During the St. Charles County Police Department’s Take Back event this past April, a total of 234 pounds of medication was collected.  

“That success gave us confidence that the community is learning the importance of properly disposing of medical waste to help prevent prescription drug abuse,” Joyner added.  

In return, the department also provides community members with educational materials on prescription drug abuse, candy confusion, TestMyTeen vouchers for complimentary youth drug testing, and other beneficial resources.

The St. Charles County Police Department did not participate in this month’s Take Back event because its station is under construction. However, once construction’s completed, community members will once again have access to the 24-hour medication disposal kiosk which accepts a variety of prescription medications.

Last April, Americans turned in 450 tons (over 900,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at almost 5,500 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 13 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 8.1 million pounds – more than 4,050 tons – of pills.  

The following locations will accept your old over-the-counter and prescription drugs. We encourage you to call before you intend to visit to ensure they are still taking old medications.

The city of St. Charles Police Dept. at 1781 Zumbehl Rd. in St. Charles (636-949-3378).

Lake Saint Louis Police Dept. at 200 Civic Center Dr. in Lake St. Louis (636-625-8018).

O’Fallon Police Dept. at 100 N. Main St. in O’Fallon (636-240-3200).

St. Charles County Police Dept. at 101 Sheriff Dierker Ct. in O’Fallon (636-949-3000).

Wentzville Police Dept. at 1019 Schroeder Creek Blvd. in Wentzville (636-327-5101).

CUTLINE: Photo by Ray Rockwell The Lake Saint Louis Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration hosted a drug take-back event to prevent pill abuse and theft.