Thousands of medications head to incinerator


By Sue Cody

A medication take-back event collected thousands of unwanted prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs for safe disposal April 28, at Warrenton City Hall. The event was sponsored by the Warrenton Police Department and Clatsop County Health Department.

With nationwide focus on the opioid and substance use disorder crisis, it is a good time to take a look in the medicine cabinet, and make sure prescriptions are safely stored and discarded. 

W2W Drug takeback FB

“By collecting and disposing of unused medications, we are reducing the abuse potential,” says Sarah Mitchell, a nurse and prescription drug overdose coordinator with the county health department. Prescriptions go directly into a big box, where they are kept confidential.

“Keeping drugs out of the hands of kids, teens, family members and friends limits access for those who have an addiction potential,” she says.

“It is important to secure medications at home even when in use,” says Warrenton Police Chief Matthew Workman. That can prevent accidents and discourage others from using drugs not intended for them.

“Medications will expire and may not be best for a certain illness,” Workman says. “Don’t share medications. The pain killer used for a tooth extraction may not be the best for a kid’s twisted ankle. Each should have their own prescription or advice from a medical professional.”

Heather White, community health partnership coordinator for CareOregon, and Richard Wilson, a Clatsop Community College criminal justice student, assisted Mitchell and Workman at the Warrenton event.

Collection and Disposal

There are kiosks for medication and needle disposal at pharmacies and police departments in Astoria, Cannon Beach, Seaside and Warrenton, as well as at Columbia Memorial Hospital and Providence Health & Services.

Studies show that medications flushed down the toilet seep into the groundwater, lakes, rivers and even fish, says Workman. Putting them in the landfill has the same effect. Because of this, drug take-back events and disposal sites collect the drugs and needles, and send them to a high-powered incinerator.

In Clatsop County, medications are sent to Covanta Energy in Brooks. According to its website, “Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste (or waste-to-energy) facilities provide a safe, technologically advanced means of waste disposal that reduce greenhouse gases, generate clean energy and recycle metal.”

The Way to Wellville and its sponsor, the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, support safe storage and disposal of medications.