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Public urged to turn in expired meds at Rostraver drop-box

Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Mon Valley residents who have unwanted, unused and expired prescription drugs, creams, liquids and over-the-counter medications in their homes can safely dispose of those medications that can be hazardous to their health by dropping them at the Rostraver Township police station on Saturday.

The police will collect the unwanted and unused prescriptions and medications from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 201 Municipal Drive, as part of the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Rostraver Police Chief Greg Resetar said that the township police department had excellent participation the first time it was involved in the prescriptions drug take-back program, but the response dropped off the last few times because of poor weather. Rostraver has made it easy for motorists to drop off their unwanted prescriptions by having a drop-off box at the police department so they don't have to leave their vehicles.

“This is a good way to dispose of it,” Resetar said.

This one-day effort will bring national focus to the issue of pharmaceutical controlled substance abuse, said Ellen C. Keefe, executive director of Westmoreland Cleanways, the Greensburg-based organization that is partnering with police in Rostraver, Greensburg, Latrobe and Mt. Pleasant in the safe collection of the unwanted drugs.

Westmoreland Cleanways volunteers will be on hand, along with law enforcement personnel, to answer questions about the collection and proper disposal of medications.

Those dropping off the unwanted medications will retain possession of their own drugs, and place the substances directly into a collection box, Keefe said.

The collection is anonymous – no identification will be requested. No syringes or sharp needles will be accepted due to the potential hazard posed by blood-borne diseases.

The Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township is another area drop-off site for the unwanted prescriptions. The hospital is joining forces with the Carroll Township police to collect the unused and unwanted prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26 at the circular driveway area outside of the hospital's Anthony M. Lombardi Education Conference Center off Route 88.

Those people dropping off their unwanted medications at the hospital can remain in their cars and the donors can remain anonymous. Police will not ask for identification, the hospital said.

Before dropping off the unwanted medications, people should remove any personal information from the bottles or packages of the controlled, non-controlled or over-the-counter medications, the hospital said.

Police will seal the boxes containing the collected medicine and the Drug Enforcement Administration will weigh the boxes and safely dispose of the items.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said that 371 tons of prescription medications were collected in April from the public at more than 5,829 locations manned by 4,312 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies that partnered with DEA on the event. When added to the collections from DEA's previous five take-back events, more than 2.8 million pounds, equal to 1,409 tons, of prescription medications have been removed from circulation.

Drug overdoses

The effort to safely dispose of the prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications is important because 67 of the drug overdoses this year in Westmoreland County were caused by a combination of prescription medications and some other drug or drugs, the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office said. Another seven cases of suspected drug overdoses are pending, said Paul Cycak, Westmoreland County chief deputy coroner.

In 2012, antidepressants were 33 of the overdose cases; oxycodone found in 20 overdose cases; muscle relaxers found in 11 overdoses and anti-psychotics in nine overdoses, according to the coroner's annual report.

When the coroner's deputies go to the scene of a drug overdose, “we bring it back,” Cycak said, referring to the suspected medications involved in a drug overdose.

This spring, Cycak said he and Westmoreland County Detectives burned about 15 8-inch-by-11-inch copy paper boxes, filled with such unused and expired prescription medications. He said he has another four copy paper boxes plus a cabinet full of those medications that are waiting to be destroyed.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that about 7 million people in 2010 were using psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically. Pain relievers are the drugs most commonly abused, with about 5.1 million people misusing the medication, the drug abuse institute stated. Tranquilizers are abused by 2.2 million people and 1.1 million people abuse stimulants, the agency found.

Among adolescents, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the commonly abused illicit drugs by high school seniors. Nearly 1 in 12 high school seniors reported nonmedical use of Vicodin and 1 in 20 reported abusing OxyContin.

When asked how prescription narcotics were obtained for nonmedical use, 70 percent of the 12th graders said they were given to them by a friend or relative, according to a 2011 study.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-836-5252.

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