Opioid abuse, which has been connected with heroin use, is on the rise in Washington.
Opioid abuse, which has been connected with heroin use, is on the rise in Washington. Makistock/shutterstock.com

Cool news out of Seattle City Council: Pharmacies and Seattle Police Department stations will have the option to install prescription drug take-back boxes for unused prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Ritalin in their stores and precincts. The council unanimously approved the measure on Monday.

KUOW was there to report:

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez sponsored the measure. She said prescription drug abuse can lead to heroin addiction, so they want to encourage safe disposal of extra pills.

Gonzalez: "Four out of five recent heroin users previously used opioid pain relievers such as Oxycodone before switching to the less-expensive option of heroin."

According to a 2015 study from University of Washington's Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, there has been an 85 percent statewide increase in opioid and heroin use. "Publicly funded drug treatment admissions for opioids as the primary drug increased 197 [percent] statewide, with increases in 38 of 39 counties. Drug caused deaths involving opioids increased 31% statewide, with increases in most counties," the group reported.

According to a release from the city council, installation of the drop boxes would come at no cost to pharmacies and police precincts. A number of police departments across King County are already on board, they report.

Until recently, pharmacies could only accept returned unused over-the-counter medicine, not controlled substances like prescription opioids. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has new regulations, however, that allow pharmacies to accept these drugs too. ...

The King County program endorsed in this resolution is funded by pharmaceutical companies and comes with no cost to the pharmacies. A stewardship organization retained by King County will take care of installation of drop-boxes, staff training, and collection of the drugs.

Interestingly, the release notes:

Improper disposal of prescription drugs, including controlled substances, contributes to environmental degradation as well. A recent study described in a 2016 article in the journal Environmental Pollution found traces of numerous prescription drugs in Puget Sound waters.

Sounds like a win-win.