On Saturday morning and early afternoon, a handful of locals drove up to the Finney County EMS station and KBUF radio station with plastic bags of unused and expired medicine, the remnants of cleaned-out cabinets or loved one’s illnesses.

Over the event’s four hours, both "Take Back" stations brought in a combined 20.5 pounds of medicine, from prescription pills to Pepto-Bismol.

Stopping by the two temporary safe disposal stations, in place for Finney County’s participation in National Drug Take Back Day via the local Opioid Response Task Force and manned by local law enforcement, felt safer for both the environment and the community, participants said. They didn’t want other people to be hurt by getting a hold of their drugs.

It’s a good sentiment given the spirit of the event: pushback against a rising national and statewide trend of opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction is not an epidemic in Finney County, but the amount of local, recorded prescription drug abuse and addiction has risen in the past couple of years, said Finney County Undersheriff John Andrews and local substance abuse center City on a Hill program director and substance abuse counselor Miranda Unruh.

Part of the problem is people getting their hands on leftover medicine lingering in medicine cabinets once prescribed to someone else.

The goal of the local Take Back Day, said event organizer Troy Unruh, is to remind people to dispose of that medicine, both on Take Back Days and during the year at permanent safe, disposal drop-off boxes for drugs in the lobby of the Law Enforcement Center and in the emergency room at St. Catherine Hospital. And beyond that, the goal is to make people aware of the danger of opioids and how to avoid it.

Opioids, an umbrella of drugs that includes illegal substances like heroin, but also prescribed medicine after surgeries or for pain treatment, can have a significant effect on patients who take them for a prolonged period of time, Miranda Unruh said. The body builds a dependency on it. Those prescribed may not realize they are becoming addicted, she said. For people who are not prescribed the drugs and take them without being monitored by a doctor, overdose is a risk.

The drug depresses the nervous system — respirations, heartbeat — and a high enough dosage can be life threatening, Andrews said.

Both Genesis Family Health and Compass Behavioral Health offer the drug-assisted opioid treatment Suboxone, one of the few clinics that offer the treatment in the region. City on a Hill in Garden City also offers outpatient services and referrals to higher levels of treatment if necessary.

And for those who may face the possibility of having to use the prescribed opioids, Troy Unruh suggested residents check with their medical providers to make sure the use of opioids is the right choice for them considering the length of time they would need to be on the medicine, and to possibly ask about other available options. With that communication, it could be possible to reduce the amount of opioid prescriptions, and by extension possible abuse.


Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.