Athens, Ga. – A large metal drop box occupying space just outside the University of Georgia Police Department has one purpose—to safely collect unneeded or unwanted prescription medications.
The original intent of boxes like this one—which was donated to the university through the Medical Association of Georgia Foundation Inc. as part of a campaign known as “Think About It: Prevent RX Drug Abuse”—was to give people a disposal option that didn’t include flushing their old or extra medications down the toilet.
“We wanted to help people get their prescription drugs out of their houses and keep them out of the water system,” said Jimmy Williamson, chief of the police department. “The drop box is mainly for prescription drugs, especially when people don’t use them up. The safest way to dispose of these medications is in a drop box location like this.”
The drop box was installed this past spring next to the Hodgson Oil Building at 286 Oconee St. Available 24/7, it provides a secure location for anyone who wants to get rid of both legal and illegal substances.
Individuals can leave the substances with no questions asked and no potential for criminal prosecution or other sanctions.
The box is built like a post office mailbox or a library book drop, and “it’s almost impossible to take contents out from the entry point,” Williamson said.
The drop box is emptied daily.
Williamson said police have seen people drop medications off in their original bottles or in plastic bags. Either way, “there’s complete amnesty in dropping them off,” he said. “I want people to know that we’re not going to make a criminal case against anybody who is dropping drugs off in that box.
“Our goal is to keep our waters clean and to keep medications out of the hands of children and those who might abuse them,” Williamson also said. “It benefits everybody if drugs are disposed of properly.”
A 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that an estimated 2.4 million Americans used prescription drugs non-medically for the first time within that year. Of that population, more than half were female. About a third fell between 12 and 17 years of age.
For more information on the Think About It campaign and for other drop box locations, see rxdrugabuse.org.