Residents participate in Drug Take Back Day

Lenoir City Police Officer Jamie Ketner collects bags of unused medications at Walmart in Lenoir City on Saturday during National Drug Take Back Day.

Loudon County participated Saturday for the second year in the Drug Enforcement Agency National Drug Take Back Day.

The national effort started 19 years ago in hopes of providing a safe way for people to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs and to educate the public about potential abuse of prescription medications, Vicki Cowell, Prevention Alliance of Loudon County programs coordinator, said.

Drug Take Back Day is held twice a year in April and October. This year, the spring Take Back Day was canceled due to coronavirus concerns. The county has historically hosted one drop-off spot, but participants this year could choose to take medications to Walmart in Lenoir City or the Greenback Convenience Center.

Members of the Prevention Alliance, Loudon Police Department, Lenoir City Police Department, 9th Judicial Drug Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration and Loudon County Sheriff’s Office were stationed at each drop-off point to collect medications.

“It’s a huge undertaking for everybody to do it, and it’s just nice to have the community support,” Cowell said.

In previous years, a community-wide event similar to Take Back Day was hosted in Greenback. Instead of having two separate events, another location was added in Greenback for convenience.

“My way of thinking was since it’s such short notice that I had to get everything ready, people are coming through the convenience center on Saturdays anyway,” LCSO Lt. Shane Ezell said. “If we can get the word out, it’s just a one-stop deal for them. They can throw their trash away and get rid of prescription medication that they want to get rid of also.”

The effort is important to prevent potential harm to children.

“It takes prescription medication that is otherwise sitting around not being used out of homes where you get rid of potential for one, small children getting them, two, adult children or older children to be able to get into the medication,” Ezell said. “Typically, if you have medication that you’re not taking, you’re more apt to forget about it and not realize that it’s gone. When you remove those from the household, the propensity for those to fall in the wrong hands is taken away.”

Loudon Police Chief James “Bear” Webb said there are also long-term benefits of collecting and safely disposing medications.

“One of the long-term issues we’ve been told if you flush stuff like that down the toilet it ends up getting back in the water supply,” Webb said. “If everybody utilized that practice it could be something that could contaminate the water supply long term.”

LCSO and LPD have permanent prescription drug drop boxes at their main offices and have seen plenty of medications safely discarded.

“We have quite a few people who will bring in old discarded medication,” Ezell said. “It can be anything from narcotic medication to just vitamins and stuff. Typically, what I’ve seen in the years we’ve been doing it, if somebody has a relative or somebody who has passed away, they’re cleaning out all their medication and wanting rid of it. They bag it all up, bring it to one spot and we dispose of it.”