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Oxford community encouraged to dispose safely with drug take-back day

The Coalition For a Healthy Community in Oxford in partnership with McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital and the Oxford and Miami University police departments will host the biannual Drug Take-Back Day from 8 a.m. to noon this Saturday in Oxford's Uptown Park.

This trio of local establishments hosts one of these events every fall and spring in order to encourage the community to bring their unused and expired prescription drugs to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

The standard American medicine cabinet often contains a plethora of unused expired drugs - only a fraction of which gets disposed correctly. Many are flushed down toilets or drains and end up in our waterways.

For example, a water sample from the Great Miami River yields particles of ibuprofen, caffeine, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and antiepileptic seizure drugs, said Jonathan Levy, director of the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability. However, many of these are common drugs at concentrations far below any kind of legal limit for drinking water.

"We're not talking about drinking water violations," Levy said. "What we're talking about is creating a brew of chemicals in surface waters and we don't know the ultimate ecological impact of that."

Amy Macehko, the project coordinator for The Coalition For a Healthy Community, said the purpose of drug take-back programs is twofold. The second and most important purpose, according to Macehko, is to prevent the abuse of drugs, specifically opioid painkillers, for illegal, recreational purposes.

"We know there is a large problem with opioids in Butler County," Macehko said. "As a local community, we need to do our part to get those drugs off the street."

The drug take-back accepts all prescription and over the counter pharmaceuticals. McCullough-Hyde will also be responsible of a sharps container for needles. The only medicines that will not be accepted are liquids and inhalers.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requires that two police officers be present to take back any narcotic or prescription drugs. However, the approach taken by the officers is one of 'don't ask, don't tell.'

"Basically, you can bring your mother in law's drugs in and we're not going to arrest you because you have somebody else's narcotics," MUPD Detective Walt Schneider said.

The law on pharmaceutical possession states that people are not to possess anybody else's drugs or possess them in a container that is not the original Schneider said. So on drug take-back days people are given a blanket exemption from the laws.

"We want people to feel comfortable that they aren't going to be questioned about where they got the drugs," OPD Sgt. Jon Varley said. "The important part is to get them off the street."