Maureen O'Malley and Trudy Mizner waited in front of a covered garbage can most of Saturday morning. They were hoping for drugs, and they scored—big time. After five hours, the pair had collected three garbage bags—or 125 pounds—of unwanted or expired prescription meds as part of the Missoula City-County Health Department's first-ever Drug Disposal Day.
"It was people cleaning out their medicine cabinets," said Mizner, who added the department hopes to make it a quarterly event.
Nineteen Missoulians and more than 300 Montanans died from prescription drug overdose last year. Eight of the Missoula deaths were attributed to suicide. The department started Drug Disposal Day in hopes of limiting access to unneeded pills and reducing the risk of overdoses.
"Kids are always experimenting," said Mizner, underlining the concern.
Collecting the drugs also helps prevent residents from flushing pills down the commode, a practice that can contaminate local water systems. O'Malley said the drugs dropped off Saturday will be incinerated, the same way police destroy illegal narcotics.
"We got everything," said O'Malley. "People just didn't know how to get rid of them."
In one case, an older man dropped off a glass bottle from 1951.
"He didn't remember what the medication was—the name had been rubbed off—but you could still read the date," O'Malley said. "He said to us, 'I had no idea it would be so easy, and I'm very grateful because I didn't know what else to do with it.'"