Take back your extra drugs

From pharmacies to public safety buildings, there are several places to drop off unused drugs and pills in northern Ramsey County.

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office collected and turned into energy 11,232 pounds of unused medicine in 2018, said Randy Gustafson, communications coordinator. 

The sheriff’s office has two locations at its buildings — the patrol station in Arden Hills and the downtown St. Paul office. It also coordinates collection at four police department sites — Maplewood, New Brighton, North St. Paul and White Bear Lake. 

The sheriff’s office collects the drugs and send them to be burned and turned into energy by Ramsey County Public Health at least once a month, Gustafson said. It’s been collecting drugs and pills for nearly a decade now. 

“Every day is a drug take back day,” Gustafson noted. The office accepts any pills you would keep in your medicine cabinet — from opioids to aspirin to vitamins, and even pet medicine. It accepts powers, sprays, creams, inhalers, IV bags and patches. It accepts unused epi-pens but no used sharps. The Ramsey County Hazardous Waste site in St. Paul receives sharps free of charge. 

Ramsey County’s goal is twofold. First, dropping off drugs like opioids can prevent both the patient and others who see the unused drugs from the temptation of using them when they are not needed. It’s common for people to only need to use half a supply of pills. 

Second, it keeps thousands of pounds of pills out of the landfill or in the public water system. There is an environmental impact to flushing pills down the toilet or throwing them in the trash.

Walgreens Pharmacy on Highway 96 in White Bear Lake also accepts unused medicines. Customers can come in and drop medicines in the self-serve, locked bin next to the pharmacy counter, said Store Manager Bonnie Rennert. CVS Pharmacy on Highway 61 in White Bear Lake also has a drop box, said Pharmacist Sam Akers. Neither location accepts needles. 

Minnesotans spend about $1,400 per capita annually on prescription drugs, according to a 2018 study by Kaiser Family Foundation and analyzed by The Senior List. In 2017, about 6 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The majority of misuse occurred when someone found unused medicines of family or friends, according to the study.  

There were 13.3 drug overdoses per 100,000 people, according to 2018 reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed by Senior Living.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported that prescription opioid overdose deaths were the leading cause of opioid deaths in 2017. There were 196 prescription opioid overdose deaths; there were 184 from synthetic opioids and 111 from heroin. Over 2,000 emergency room visits were made for all opioid-related overdoses. 

The Minnesota Legislature created an opioid advisory council this year, according to Minnesota House of Representatives Speaker Melissa Hortman. The state plans to increase funding for county social service and tribal services agencies and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) through fees on opiate manufacturers. The BCA plans to add more drug scientists and special agents to investigate drug trafficking. There will be a $250,000 registration fee for any manufacturer that distributes 2 million or more units of opioids in the state. Renewal fees are $55,000 until the state recovers $250 million from settlements with pharmaceutical companies. The fees will be reviewed in 2024. 

The quantity of opiates prescribed will also be limited under the new law taking effect July 1. With some exceptions, adults can receive a seven-day supply and minors a five-day supply.

Other locations for disposing of drugs in the Twin Cities metro can be found on the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) website at takebackday.dea.gov.

Take back your extra drugs

These locations in northern Ramsey take back unused prescription drugs year-round. Opioids put in the trash can end up in the hands of drug dealers on the streets.

Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Station 

1411 Paul Kirkwold Dr., Arden Hills, 55112 


White Bear Lake Public Safety Building 

4701 Hwy. 6, White Bear Lake, 55110 


Walgreens Pharmacy 

1075 Hwy. 96 E, White Bear Lake, 55127 


CVS Pharmacy 

4800 Hwy. 61 White Bear Lake, 55110 


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