After Opal Larson's husband died in November, she was left with a handful of medications she didn't need.
Instead of keeping them in the house, Larson turned the medication in on Saturday to the DeKalb Police Department as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Take Back Initiative.
“I have two grandkids running around, and I don't need them to get their hands on any of that stuff,” Larson said.
The event took place as part of Red Ribbon Week, a national drug prevention campaign. The DeKalb Police Department's new location at 700 W. Lincoln Highway was decked out with red ribbons around the trees.
Dan Gerace, community service officer, collected the bags of medication. People turned in everything from prescription medication for high blood pressure to over-the-counter medicine such as Aleve.
Gerace said people turned in medicine that they stopped taking or medicine that belonged to a family member who had died.
“They don't need to be in the hands of children or anyone else that can abuse them,” he said.
DeKalb resident Sarah Sweet turned in her extra medication for that reason. Sweet has four children, and when her kids' friends are at the house, she doesn't want them to see what's in the medicine cabinet.
“I wanted them out of the house so the kids don't do something stupid,” she said.
About three boxes of medicine were collected. The medication was weighed and kept in a secure room in the police department before it was turned into the state police in Sterling, where the medication was disposed of properly, Gerace said.
Sycamore resident Erin Dodson heard about the drug take-back program from a flyer she received at work.
She said it was important to dispose unused medicine properly because throwing it in the garbage or flushing it down the toilet risks tainting the environment.
According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, flushing medicine down the toilet can cause it to end up in the water supply.
“I think people nowadays are more conscious of the environment and the safety of our children,” Dodson said. “There's more awareness now about doing it the right way.”
To get rid of unwanted medicine, the Illinois State Medical Society recommends that people take the medicine out of its original package and place it in a sealable bag. Then mix the medicine with coffee grounds or kitty litter and water and throw the sealed bag in the trash. Mixing the medicine with coffee grounds or kitty litter makes it undesirable for children, pets or people who will dig through the trash, according to an Illinois State Medical Society news release.
For liquid medications, Walgreens advises that people mix the substances with an absorbent material such as flour or cat litter to help discourage misuse or unintentional use of the medication.
For more information on safe medicine disposal, visit www.epa.state.il.us.