The prescription drug drop box at the Municipal Center on Main Street in Brattleboro.(Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
The prescription drug drop box at the Municipal Center on Main Street in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Friday January 25, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The first-quarter figures are in for the prescription drug drop box in town and Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition's communications coordinator said they reveal some satisfying results.

Earlier this week, Shannon Albritton told the Reformer just more than 19 pounds of medications have been put in the box located in the Brattleboro Police Department's lobby since it was installed in September. She said she considers that a significant number.

The box, made possible by a federal Drug-Free Communities Grant and sponsored by the BAPC, is one of three recently placed in law enforcement agencies in Windham County to give citizens a chance to dispose of prescription pills and patches in a safe way. The other two boxes, installed in September and December, are in the lobbies of the Windham County Sheriff's Office in Newfane and Bellows Falls Police Department.

Albritton said she was impressed with the amount of medications collected in Brattleboro, considering 59.8 pounds were taken in throughout the county during the previous drug takeback day, which essentially provides the same service as the drop boxes.

She said 19 pounds should not be expected every quarter because the figures might level off once people have cleaned out their medicine cabinets.

Albritton said though the boxes are located in law enforcement agencies, all dropoffs are anonymous and no questions will be asked. She said any cameras are strictly for the purposes of safety and security and will not be used to monitor activity. All boxes are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

She cited a 2011 study that revealed 20 percent of high school students in Windham County say they have used prescription pain relievers not prescribed to them. Albritton also said 70 percent of people 12 years and older who misuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family members and said the drop boxes provide an easy way to get rid of any meds that may be laying around the home.

"I think it's excellent. We feel very good about it," she said. "It think the community has responded brilliantly. It's a prevention strategy."

Brattleboro Det. Lt. Mike Carrier inventories the box every day and said the drugs are brought to an incinerator in Claremont, N.H., just like the contents of the drop boxes at the Hinsdale and Keene, N.H., police departments.

He said the boxes help get unneeded or expired drugs out of area houses.

"It's very important," he told the Reformer, adding that safe disposal of drugs prevents their theft in the case of a break-in or robbery and avoids accidental overdoses. "It's a win-win situation."

Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark said the drugs placed in the box in his lobby are secured in the evidence room and then they get included with the medications brought in as part of the drug takeback days. He said it provides a great service, as prescription drug abuse in on the rise.

"I'm surprised by how much it is used on the weekends," he said. "A couple of days ago, it was so full it couldn't fit any more."

The sheriff said federal guidelines prohibit people from bringing their unwanted prescription medications anywhere (even a pharmacy) besides a law enforcement agency for proper disposal.

Chad Simmons, media coordinator at the Greater Falls Prevention Coalition, said the coalition sponsored the box in the BFPD's lobby by way of a federal Drug-Free Communities Grant.

He said the box was installed in late December.

Simmons advises against flushing drugs down the toilet or throwing them in the garbage because U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies have indicated this has a negative effect on the environment.

While updating the Rockingham Selectboard on his department at meeting Tuesday, Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake spoke about the drop box in his lobby.

Lake wanted to mention that cough syrup should not be placed in the box.

"It is recommended that you take your cough syrups and dump it on something like cat litter and you can dispose of that in the garbage," he said.

Lake said the next prescription drug takeback day is scheduled to last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 27.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him @dpoli_reformer.