Record haul recorded in Shaler drug take-back event

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

A steady stream of participants in Shaler Township's fourth pharmaceutical drug take-back event netted more than double the collection amounts of past events.

The township's collection site at the Shaler North Hills Library was part of the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, on Saturday, April 27, and brought in just under 400 pounds of pharmaceutical waste.

“That's our largest to date,” said Shaler Township Police Chief Bryan Kelly. “I was stunned. This is our fourth time, you figure you would be getting less, it's almost twice what our first one was. I think it shows there is a need for this.”

The expired or unused pharmaceuticals collected during the drug take-back event filled 14 large bags and was taken into the custody of the local DEA division and incinerated.

In the past two years, the Shaler community has collected and disposed of more than 1,000 pounds of pharmaceuticals.

“It was phenomenal,” said Norma Hufnagel, who helps organize the events each year. “It just blew our minds. It was all day long that people came. They brought boxes and bags, and there was even a garbage bag, a woman brought a garbage bag (of pharmaceutical waste).”

Hufnagel of Etna started organizing the take back events at Shaler in memory of her son, David, who died in 2007 at the age of 35 after a long struggle with addiction.

She and her husband, Dave, attend each take-back event to tell their story and thank people for their support by cleaning out their medicine cabinets.

“I think the word is getting out, finally people are realizing (the importance),” Hufnagel said. “I think you know there are pharmaceuticals out there. You know they are in people's medicine cabinets, but it's shocking to me to really hear it and see it face to face.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration created the events to combat prescription drug abuse, which has been classified as an epidemic by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and is the fastest growing drug problem in the nation, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Shaler's collection site was one of more than 5,800 take-back locations that collected a total of 742,497 pounds of prescription medications on April 27. In the six take-back events, since the DEA started the national campaign, more than 2.8 million pounds, or 1,409 tons, of prescription medications have been collected and disposed of.

Shaler Township plans to hold the next drug take- back event in October as part of the DEA's biannual event.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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