Hundreds of pounds of drugs taken out of circulation

It wasn’t a dope bust! Find out why people were turning in perfectly good prescription drugs, with absolutely no incentive

Officer James Peterson, ONI Crime Prevention Specialist Teri Poppino, Neighborhood Response Team Sgt. Randy Teig, and ONI Crime Prevention Jenni Bernheisel, join in a smile because of the success of this drug turn-in event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Typically, folks don’t throw away prescription medications for which they’ve paid money. But, on October 29, outer East Portland residents were encouraged to do just that.

“This is another ‘Prescription Drug Take-back’ that we’re holding again at the Gateway Fred Meyer Shopping Center on NE 102nd Avenue,” explained City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement Crime Prevention Specialist Jenni Bernheisel.

“We are collecting medication that is either expired, or unused,” Bernheisel told East Portland News. “We’re even taking controlled substances.”

Reserve Officer Philip Fleury packs another filled box of unused medications into the secure transport van.

The purpose is to keep citizens from discarding pills and liquids in the trash – or even worse – flushing them down the toilet, since pharmaceuticals have been found to leach back into groundwater from treated sewage, she explained.

“Even more importantly,” Bernheisel continued, “we want to send a message to parents that teenagers who are abusing prescription drugs are usually getting them from home – from their own medicine cabinets. Sometimes, they can also come from their grandparents’ or relatives’ homes – or their friends’ homes.”

Most people don’t notice if a few pills are missing, Bernheisel remarked. And, because they are pharmaceuticals, many kids believe them to be “safe” to experimentally take, hoping for a cheap “high”. “But, this can often lead to severe medical problems or death. The best prevention is to get them out of the house.”

Diversion Investigator Jenna Akiyama from the US Drug Enforcement Administration is on hand at the “Prescription Drug Take-back” to answer questions.

Interestingly, there was no reward offered for turning in the medications, Bernheisel said. “This is an event that does not have an incentive. We’re not giving anyone anything, to come out here. People come here because they want to do the right thing – to safely dispose of medication.”

About 300 pounds of drugs were taken for disposal from this event, Bernheisel later told us.

By the way, you don’t have to wait for a public event like a “Prescription Drug Take-back” to dispose of your unused meds. Securely and confidentially dispose of them at either of these two locations:

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct, 737 SE 106th Avenue – in the lobby during office hours

Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Hansen Building – 12240 NE Glisan Street – in the lobby, open 24 hours a day.

Remember – don’t flush them away! Turn in your unused medications. Don’t risk waiting until the next public collection event.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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