New RX Drug Drop gives community a chance to safely purge meds

Adam Nelson says people inquire once or twice a week what to do with leftover prescription drugs. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)
Adam Nelson says people inquire once or twice a week what to do with leftover prescription drugs. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Starting Monday, Juneau residents will be able to walk into the police department and hand over prescription drugs without consequence. It’s been several months since the community could safely dispose of their medications.

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Adam Nelson is the lead pharmacist at Juneau Drug Company. A quaint, old-fashioned pharmacy in the heart of downtown. He started working here when he was 14 and became a pharmacist about five years ago.

He says his favorite thing about the job is the people.

“Talking to them, finding out about their day and helping in any way I can,” he says.

But something that can be difficult to help customers with is what to do with leftover prescription pills. He says they inquire once or twice a week, “Can I drop this off here?”

“Because they went to the dentist, they give them 20 pain pills in case they need them, they only take three,” he says. “And they need somewhere to put them and most people in Juneau don’t want to throw them in the garbage.”

Trace amounts of medication, flushed down the toilet or thrown in a landfill, can wind up in your drinking water.

“Let’s say, you go to the dump and you throw in a handful of pills in the dump. All that rain water is going to turn it into liquid and it’s going to flow out into the streams and the creeks,” he says.

The RX Drug Drop is located in the lobby of the Juneau Police Department. Prescription medication is welcome. Needles and liquids are not. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)
The RX Drug Drop is located in the lobby of the Juneau Police Department. Prescription medication is welcome. Needles and liquids are not. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Twice a year, the DEA, along with the Juneau Police Department, would round up surplus pharmaceuticals. But that program ended last year after funding was cut.

Lt. Chris Sell from JPD says disposal options were non-existent.

“People were justifiably frustrated when they were trying to do the right thing and there wasn’t an avenue to responsibly and legally dispose of their medications,” she says.

Now with the RX Drug Drop, people can walk in and safely get rid of their meds.

The model has worked successfully in other places, such as Ketchikan. The police department there has been doing it for about 2 ½ years. Sell says people can drop off medication anonymously.

“There’s no forms to fill out it’s just like a book at the library.”

Last year, JPD confiscated 374 prescription opioid pills which can elicit the same effect on the brain as heroin. Sell says addiction can start at home and lead to harder substances.

“When we talk to addicted people, they almost always started with someone’s prescription drugs.”

With the addition of the drop box, JPD hopes it won’t come to that.