Community members can dispose of pills during Saturday’s Drug Take Back Day |

Community members can dispose of pills during Saturday’s Drug Take Back Day

UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center Drug Take Back box. (Courtesy photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Community members with expired or unused prescription or over-the-counter drugs are invited to discard of those drugs at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs on Saturday, as part of the national Drug Take Back Day.

The hospital installed a large, bright green collection box in January 2020 just inside the entrance to the emergency department, and since then, they’ve collected eight 40-gallon boxes of medication, which Pharmacy Director Wes Hunter said is a great benefit to the community.

“In this community, we care about what goes into our water supply, and we care what goes into the ground,” Hunter said. “It’s been a big success.”

People can dispose of prescription and over-the-counter medications, including prescribed controlled substances, in the receptacle. Sharps, marijuana, illicit narcotics and chemotherapy medications are not accepted.

Hunter said many who are prescribed drugs for various conditions often keep unused pills for a later date, which he said can be a dangerous practice, as other household members could get into the supply and have an accidental overdose or become addicted.

“You don’t want to leave drugs in your medicine cabinet — that can be an invitation for someone to misuse them,” Hunter said.

If residents have unused or expired drugs and cannot make it to a drop box, Hunter said wrapping them in an unpalatable item and throwing them in the trash is the best option. While flushing unused drugs down a toilet or drain is still not ideal, Hunter said that is “a drop in the bucket” compared to what people taking such medications often excrete from their bodies.

“The most important thing is to get those out of any areas where they could be used incorrectly,“ Hunter said. ”Keeping them out of the environment is a good thing, but people should be more afraid of leaving them around than disposing of them.“

While many law enforcement agencies in Colorado participate in Drug Take Back Day, Routt County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ryan Adrian said it is difficult for more rural counties to participate because the Drug Enforcement Administration requires drugs be brought to their Denver office between 2 and 6 p.m., which is difficult for a small department three hours away to achieve.

“Right now, we just don’t have the resources or the ability to collect whatever people are going to drop off to us and then somehow get that down to Denver,” Adrian said. “Hopefully, in the future, the DEA will make it easier for us rural communities to participate in Drug Take Back Day.”

Adrian said the Sheriff’s Office is currently working with Grand Futures Prevention Coalition to coordinate with law enforcement agencies along the Interstate 70 corridor between Routt County and Denver to drop off drugs to those agencies and have the agencies take them to the DEA.

“We want people to bring us their drugs, and we can dispose of them so we can prevent overdoses,” Adrian said. “When you’re working a huge area with two people patrolling the road, we have to come up with some creative ways to get those drugs down to Denver.”

Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen said the department is not participating in the official day for the same reasons, but he explained drug drop-off boxes are particularly important for families with children, so children and teenagers do not accidentally or intentionally get into dangerous drugs.

“The majority of people want to do the right thing, and they want to dispose of things properly,” Christensen said. “We want them to have a safe and legal way to dispose of those drugs.”

While Saturday is the official national day, community members are invited to use the hospital’s drop-off box every day.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.