‘Drug Turn In’ bags pounds of prescription narcotics

See how many pounds of drugs were turned in at the most recent event – and find out why cops say events like these are vitally important to our community – especially for our youth …

Holding up a pill bottle of prescription “oxycodone” pain-killer, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. John Scruggs says it’s only one of dozens they’d collected at this year’s “Drug Turn In” event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the second year in a row, East Portland Crime Prevention Coordinators and Portland cops have cooperated to put on a “Drug Turn Event” that’s swept pounds of prescription narcotics out of medicine cabinets.

> To read our story about the August, 2009 Drug Turn In program, CLICK HERE.

On September 18, this time at the Fred Meyer Gateway Shopping Center on NE 102nd Avenue, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Mobile Precinct set up their “drive-through drop-off” collection center.

“We’re seeing a big mix of prescription narcotics, and other prescription drugs today,” PPB East Precinct Sergeant John Scruggs told us.

“We’ve been keeping an eye out for OxyContin, generic oxycodone, Vicodin, and similar drugs,” Scruggs said. “We’ve received a large quantity of those in the mix of medications we’ve seen turned in today.”

Some prescription analgesics, like these, were intended for people suffering from excruciating pain – not for partying – because even a small overdose can be fatal.

Hopes to prevent a ‘fatal dose’
Although he’s rarely heard of “pill popping parties” taking place in our area, Scruggs said the danger, especially to teenagers, is still very real. “We are finding that teenagers abuse prescription drugs, second only to marijuana. It is really important that we get these drugs out of peoples’ medicine cabinets.”

Looking at some of the pill bottle labels that had been turned in, Scruggs pointed out that some of drugs were highly potent. “A painkiller for late stage cancer, like this, is much stronger than one for a sprained ankle. With an overdose – it could be fatal.”

East Portland Crime Prevention Coordinators Katherine Anderson, Jenni Bernheisel and East Precinct Police administrative staff member Connie Scott are all smiles, as another successful Drug Turn In draws to a close.

Says ‘prescribed’ doesn’t mean ‘safe’
East Portland Crime Prevention Coordinator Jenni Bernheisel – she’s the one who lobbied for, and organized, these events – agreed with Scruggs about the danger to teenagers in taking prescription drugs.

“Some kids might sell them, but mostly, they take them themselves,” Bernheisel said. “They think it’s a safe way to experiment with drugs – as if, because it’s a prescription, it’s not going to harm you. It can. Plus, if they get addicted, it can lead to using heroin or other drugs.”

Flushing unused prescriptions down the toilet isn’t a good idea, either, she added.

“At one time, flushing was a recommended method for disposing of them,” Bernheisel agreed. “But now, we are finding that there are trace amounts of prescription drugs in our water supply. Instead of polluting our groundwater water supply, the Portland Police Bureau is incinerating medications – containers and all. This is better for the environment.”

Sgt. Scruggs accepts another bag full of prescription drugs, submitted anonymously, during this year’s Drug Turn-In event.

100 pounds of pills
In all, during the six-hour event, 105 people drove up and handed over unused medications, Bernheisel reported. “We made it easy for people to drive up, drop off their medications, and drive off. It’s an anonymous transaction.”

“We had 14 people stop just to see what we were doing,” mused Bernheisel after the event. “We collected 20 evidence bags of medications, each weighing roughly 5 lbs. That is a total of 100 lbs of medications turned in. We feel that this continues to be beneficial to East Portland, and to the city as a whole.”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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