Drug drop-box

Seyram Selase, left, and Downey Drug pharmacist Johnnie Ellis talk about the new prescription drug drop box at Downey Drugs on Alabama 202.

Anniston residents can use a new prescription drug drop box at Downey Drug on Alabama 202 as of Monday afternoon.

Seyram Selase, director of the Oxford-based Agency for Substance Abuse Prevention, said community members have told him they sometimes feel uncomfortable visiting local police stations to dispose of medication. The new box will let them discard their prescription drugs in a neutral space, he explained. The 3-foot tall metal box, built to Drug Enforcement Administration security standards, now sits inside the store next to the pharmacy counter.

Even before the box was installed, said head pharmacist Johnnie Ellis, customers were making use of it.

“People who have family members who may have passed away or no longer take medications have come by and asked if we have any way to dispose of medicine,” Ellis said. “We told them to leave it with us and we’d put it in the box.”

Selase said money from the Alabama Department of Mental Health paid for the box, and that other pharmacies can participate at no cost by calling the Agency for Substance Abuse Prevention at 256-831-4436.

According to the DEA drug take-back website, 6 million Americans misuse prescription drugs every year. A collection held nationwide April 17 led to the disposal of more than 468 tons of prescription medication, according to the organization. The majority of abused drugs come from friends and family, the site claims, which Selase echoed.

“Parents and grandparents can be drug dealers and not even know it,” Selase said. “Sometimes kids go through those cabinets. It’s better to get rid of them in this process.”

Selase said the value of such drop boxes and those at police stations are in their ability to curb drug abuse, especially when it comes to prescription narcotics. Ideally, he said, overdose deaths in the county will fall over time. Overdose deaths in Calhoun County doubled from 15 to 30 from 2016 to 2017, according to state health department numbers.

Ellis said throwing medication in the trash could lead to it being found by someone else later on, whether they’re intentionally searching for medication or simply stumble upon it. Dumping medicine in the toilet is a bad choice, too, he said, with those drugs entering the water supply.

Drugs in the drop box, however, are picked up by local authorities on a schedule and incinerated, Selase said.

A handy placard on the box describes what can and can’t be left inside it. Prescription medication, prescription liquid and ointments, over-the-counter medication, vitamins and pet medicines are all accepted, while needles and illegal drugs like heroin, MDMA and LSD are not.

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.