San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputies stood watch while citizens handed over drugs in Lincoln Center on Saturday, acting as security while University of the Pacific’s Pharmacy School students took charge during the DEA’s National Drug Take Back Day in Stockton.
The county’s Public Health Services, Opioid Safety Coalition, sheriff’s department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) provided multiple opportunities for the public to quickly and discreetly drop off their old and unwanted drugs. This anonymous method of collection protects the environment from improper disposal, and prevents theft and prescription drug abuse, SJCPHS Health Education Programs Coordinator, Daniel Kim stated in a press release.
Pet medications, liquids medicines in their original containers, and vaping devices without batteries were also accepted by collection sites, the release said. Seven drop off locations were available for San Joaquin County residents in Lathrop, Lockeford, Lodi, Mountain House and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Pacific pharmacy students watched over a collection site in front of Code 3 in Lincoln Center, and provided literature about what the event was for, where to dispose of medical sharps and medications year round. The student volunteers didn’t ask for any identifying information or collect any data on what was going into the collection bins.
Most participants who visited the collection booth were there for less than five minutes. Student volunteers such as Colin Sui or Kayla Dong would ask them: “Do you have any sharp objects or needles in your bag?” If the answer was “no”, participants would drop off their stash, go back to their car, and take off.
The event is held twice a year, Sui said. He had volunteered for the program in the past and will probably help out again when the county organizes another one later this fall.
“A lot of older people drop off old medication,” Sui said. “Sometimes when someone passes away, a family member will drop off all the medications from (the loved one’s) house.”
Over the counter vitamins and medicines were the majority of drugs to fill the bins around 11 a.m. on Saturday. Eva Mireles, 65, of Stockton dropped off a bag of medications at the Lincoln Center location because her husband told her about the event, after seeing it online.
“I would think CVS would be able to take these. I regularly go there to pick up my high-blood pressure prescription,” Mireles said. “But (Drug Take Back Day) is easy enough.”
Mireles said she collects all her medications until the drop off days come around, to make sure they don’t end up in the regular garbage and contaminate the environment with chemicals.
San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputy Nevezi said he and Deputy Winkler were given the task to watch over the Lincoln Center site, and bring the collections to the sheriff’s department at the end of the event. From there DEA officers would take the medications and dispose of them.
“(The) DEA disposes of the medication at an EPA approved facility where they will be incinerated,” DEA spokeswoman Casey Rettig said in an email.
San Joaquin County collected 400 pounds of unwanted and unused medications during the October 2022 event, according to the release. Over eight tons were collected nationwide, according to the National Take Back Day website.
If you’re looking for places to dispose of medications and sharp medical devices, like needles and auto-injectors, visit www.SJCrecycle.org.