10-year anniversary of Tulsa partnership to reduce prescription abuse

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TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) and Covanta Energy in Tulsa marked the 10th anniversary of a partnership aimed at reducing the theft and abuse of home prescription medication.

In March of 2011, OBN started a program which involved installing permanent drug take-back boxes in law enforcement lobbies. OBN Spokesman Mark Woodward says it allows citizens to safely dispose unwanted home medication, year-round.

“Take-back days have been very successful, but we don’t want people stock-piling expired medication in their home for weeks or months until a take-back event is held in their community. These boxes provide citizens a simple and convenient way to drop off the medication in the law enforcement lobby on their way to work or while out running errands,” Woodward said.

Woodward says the agency currently has 184 drug disposal boxes located in law enforcement lobbies, including at least one in all 77 Oklahoma counties. Since the first box was installed, OBN has collected and safely disposed over 112 tons of medication. Woodward says the drugs collected from the program are transported to Covanta Energy in Tulsa for destruction.

“In 2011, Covanta Energy in Tulsa contacted OBN wanting to be a part of this effort. Covanta offered to safely destroy the drugs collected from the disposal containers at no cost to OBN or the state of Oklahoma. Our first load of collected medication was transported for destruction ten years ago this month,” explained Woodward.

“It is our responsibility as stewards of the environment and good neighbors to prevent medications from ending up in our waterways and in the hands of the most vulnerable in our community,” added Patrick Walsh, Area Asset Manager, Covanta Tulsa Renewable Energy, LLC.

In 2020, drug overdose deaths in the United States reached an all-time high at over 93,000 as Oklahoma also set a record of 1,002 drug-related fatalities. Often, fatal and non-fatal overdoses can be linked to medication stolen from a home. Studies show as many as 40 percent of American households have expired or unwanted medicine in need of disposal.

“ There is no way of knowing how many lives have been saved by getting these drugs out of home medicine cabinets around our state. But we know just one pill in the wrong hands could have the potential to take a life,” said Donnie Anderson, OBN Director.