To avoid them getting in the wrong hands, Southwest Memorial Hospital is now a drop-off point for a medication take-back program established by the Colorado Department of Health.
Medications can be dropped off at the pharmacy in the hospital at 1311 N. Mildred Road in Cortez. Drop-off times are 7 a.m-7 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on weekends.
“It is the only one in Montezuma and Dolores counties and fills a needed gap in the area for people to safely dispose of their unused or expired medications,” said Southwest Memorial spokesperson Haley Leonard Saunders.
The health department developed the program in partnership with the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention.
The average American household has four pounds of medications, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, according to the consortium. Teen abuse of prescription medications is on the rise, and research shows almost 38 percent of teens who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from their parent’s medicine cabinet, according the state health department.
Safely disposing of medications helps reduce drug abuse, and ensures they are not flushed down the toilet or thrown away, which can harm water quality and the environment.
“Prescription medication misuse and overdose numbers continue to climb, especially among youth. One simple thing we can all do to help is to dispose of our medications responsibly,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, health department director and Chief Medical Officer. “And it has the added benefit of protecting our water and environment.”
Montezuma County sheriff Steve Nowlin said local theft and abuse of prescription medication is on the rise.
“It’s alarming how much prescription drugs are being sold on the street,” he said. “Then there is the problem of when prescriptions are not refilled it pushes people into using heroin.”
Nowlin said a search warrant of a burglary suspect’s home last year revealed a large quantity of prescription drugs from several nursing home patients who had died.
The sheriff’s office has been in contact with nursing homes, medical facilities and pharmacies to review their security measures, he said.
By the end of this year, the health department hopes to have at least one medication drop-off location in every Colorado county.
Needles, marijuana products and chemotherapy medication will not be accepted, however. Medications may be deposited in their original containers, but you can help conserve space in collection bins by pouring pills and capsules into a zip-top bag. Strike out personal information on pill containers before depositing in collection bins.