Dozens of police departments across Long Island participated in the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, filling box after box with old medications for disposal.
Long Islanders came out in droves between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with bags, bottles and boxes full of unused and expired pills.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has held take-back days nationwide twice a year since 2010. The program aims to keep unused drugs out of the wrong hands and provide a more environmentally friendly means of disposal, since flushing pills down the toilet or putting them in trash cans can contaminate the water supply.
“This way it doesn’t go to people that will steal them out of your garbage cans, people who look for them,” said Jeff Bogdan, 55, of East Meadow, who brought two grocery bags full of pill bottles to the Hempstead Police Department. “I went to my cabinet and said ‘Wow I got all this? Let me get rid of it.’”
Several police departments already have 24-hour drug disposal boxes in their stations, but not everyone knows they exist, said Det. Rich Pedona of the Garden City Police Department.
Drug take-back days can help alert people to the 24-hour drop-offs and remind them to safely dispose of what they have, officials said.
“When the DEA does it nationwide, it’s well advertised,” Pedona said. “People who wouldn’t know the procedures normally know they can come today and hand it over.”
At Garden City on Saturday, officials received so many bags and boxes that they had to transfer some material from their two bins into garbage bags. Local residents arrived every few minutes with more to add. One man brought a small plastic barrel full of pill bottles to drop off.
Josephine Chiarella of Garden City said her husband died a year ago, but she wasn’t sure what to do with his diabetes medication and leftover needles. She saw the take-back day advertisements and was pleased to discover her local precinct has its own 24-hour drop box.
“Now I know they have the boxes there,” she said.
The drugs aren’t inventoried, officials said. Instead, the cardboard bins are combined, weighed and then their contents are incinerated. After a spring take-back day, the DEA recovered 893,498 pounds of medication, with 47,596 pounds from the state of New York.
By 1 p.m., DEA agents at the New York State Police barracks in East Farmingdale had filled nine cardboard bins, some of which contained bags of hundreds of multicolored pills packed tightly.
Barbara Mars, 54, of Plainview, brought her own drugs and some from her neighbor.
“Nobody wants it in their house,” Mars said. “Most of mine was antibiotics, but most people don’t want it around.”