By Dave Rogers
---- — SALISBURY — All too often, unwanted or forgotten prescription medication can get into the wrong hands, be it a small child or someone looking to get high.
In an effort to reduce overdoses and lower the town’s crime rate, the Salisbury Police Department is urging residents to bring unnecessary prescription drugs to the Railroad Avenue police station and deposit them in a recently purchased drop-off box.
The green box is located in the department’s lobby and can be accessed 24 hours a day. The town, along with other nearby communities, has hosted periodic drug take-back days. But with the box now inside the police station, residents won’t have to hold onto unwanted medications for a minute longer, officials said.
The box was purchased through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.
Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler said police will accept, with no questions asked, prescription medication, patches and ointments; vitamins, over-the-counter medications, samples and pet medications. The police department cannot accept needles, hydrogen peroxide, inhalers, aerosol cans, ointments, lotions, liquids and medications from businesses or clinics, IV bags and thermometers. Medications brought from nursing homes, clinics, doctors offices or other businesses that distribute medications will not be accepted as well.
“Studies have shown that residential supplies of pharmaceutical-controlled substances — those found in our home medicine cabinets — have become the supply of choice for young people and criminals. Many abusers, a high percentage of which are teens, are known to have obtained their controlled substances from the homes of family and friends,” Fowler said.
Salisbury police now join nearby departments Newburyport, Seabrook and Amesbury in offering prescription drug drop-off boxes. Amesbury Crime Prevention Officer Thomas Hanshaw said his department’s box, which first became available 1 1/2 years ago, is emptied every two weeks or so.
“It’s one of our most widely used services, it’s very popular,” Hanshaw said, adding among the most frequent users are older residents with small children in their homes.
In Amesbury, dropped-off medication is stored along with the department’s evidence and disposed of periodically following state and federal laws.
“There’s really no extra work,” Hanshaw said.
According to Salisbury town officials, research has shown the environment has been threatened by medications being flushed down toilets. Most controlled substances are created synthetically and are not removed through normal water-treatment processes. This can result in the discharge of these substances into the environment and into groundwater supplies.
“The Health Department is pleased that Chief Fowler and the Salisbury Police Department were proactive in this venture. This drop-off program will remove unwanted drugs from society that are harmful to people that abuse drugs and it will further protect the environment and water supplies,” Salisbury Public Health director John Morris said.
Elizabeth Pettis, executive director of the Salisbury Council on Aging and Elderly Affairs, said local senior citizens are always looking to do the right thing and seeking ways to rid themselves of medications they no longer need.
“Thanks to the Salisbury Police Department, we now have the tools to anonymously dispose of expired, unwanted medication without harming the environment. Removing those unneeded medications from their homes will help our senior citizens prevent accidental overdoses and avoid potential medication confusion,” Pettis said.
The Salisbury Police Department will evaluate the program on an annual basis to determine its effectiveness. More information can be found on the police department’s new website, www.salisburypolice.com.