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Kittanning police's drug collection box an early success

| Monday, May 12, 2014, 3:03 p.m.

Kittanning police officers were overwhelmed the first time they emptied a collection box where unwanted prescription drugs can be dropped off in the department's lobby earlier this month.

“We ended up collecting 37 pounds of unwanted medications, which is an awful lot of pills,” said Chief Bruce Mathews. “When we opened the box, bags of pills literally fell out onto the floor.”

The Med Return Drug Collection Box was installed with a goal of getting prescription drugs off the streets before they illegally ended up in the hands of those who might abuse them. Kittanning police and the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug Commission installed the box after receiving a state Drug-free Community Grant in February. The commission installed three boxes in Indiana County.

Officers empty the box four times a year and give the medications to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to be destroyed.

“The door of that box has a very distinct sound, and I got very used to hearing it opening and closing all day long,” Mathews said. “After having such a large amount right away, I wouldn't be surprised if we collected considerably less over the next several months.”

Mathews said officials have noted an increase in abuse of prescription drugs, especially in strong painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet.

“The problem is a lot of people who misuse prescription drugs don't think they're doing anything dangerous, since it came from their doctor,” Mathews said. “If it's not taken in the proper manner, it's considered an illegal substance.”

Mathews said anyone using the drug collection box at the station can anonymously drop off their medications around the clock. He said no police officers will question or require any documentation of who is dropping off the drugs.

“It's a good way to make sure medications don't fall into the wrong hands and aren't abused,” Mathews said. “It's all about prevention.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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