RIVERTON — In an effort to repress the stockpiling and diversion of opioids in the city, Riverton will roll out six kiosks for residents to safely dispose of unused pills and other drugs.
Slated to be installed next week, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs said the kiosks, which contain tank drums filled with an active carbon-based solution, will be placed in fire and police stations, City Hall and public works buildings.
“These drugs are far too often stockpiled, diverted and otherwise used by individuals in ways that lead to addiction, destruction and, sadly, death,” he said. “This tragedy has impacted and affected so many people.”
The effort was announced at a press conference in the Old Dome Meeting Hall and is in partnership with the medication disposal organization NarcX, Intermountain Riverton Hospital, the Utah Opioid Task Force and the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Several leaders praised Staggs’ proactive approach in fighting the opioid crisis in his community.
Staggs said it’s important to not just talk about the problem, but also be part of the solution.
“I’m no longer willing to make this someone else’s problem, the social cost is just too high,” he said.
After witnessing years of destruction opioid addiction has caused in people’s lives, David Schiller, a former agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency and NarcX CEO, helped develop the organization.
The tank drum’s solution can deplete pills, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and liquids like THC and CBD oils, absorbing the controlled substances and making them immediately nonretrievable, Schiller explained. Anyone who drinks the solution in attempt to achieve a high, he said, would just end up vomiting.
In addition to the kiosks, Intermountain Riverton Hospital administrator Todd Neubert said the hospital’s pharmacy will give away 6-ounce individualized bottles filled with the solution, which can destroy up to 40 pills. Currently, the pharmacy has 1,000 bottles in stock.
Neubert said about 74% of Utahns addicted to opioids did not initially have a prescription, but instead got them from a friend or relative.
A tamper-resistant cap is provided with each bottle or tank drum to seal the solution once the drugs are dropped in.
Schiller said using the kiosks is an environmentally friendly method to dispose of drugs and a better option than flushing them down the toilet, where local watersheds have tested positive for drugs.
Recently, Utah State University researchers studying pharmaceutical pollution in Red Butte Creek streams found traces of methamphetamines, nicotine, Tylenol and amphetamine.
Once the drums have been filled to capacity, they are safe to throw in the trash or at a local landfill.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes likened unfinished prescription opioids sitting in a cabinet to a loaded gun.
At the news conference, Reyes asked audience members to raise their hand if they had unused or unfinished prescriptions in their home.
“Do you realize that you might be the biggest drug dealer in your neighborhood? Most people don’t,” Reyes said, adding that easy access makes them easier to obtain by loved ones.
Last year, Reyes announced the state was filing a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for its role in the opioid crisis. On Thursday, he said Utah was getting close to a potential settlement with Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, which owns the drug company.
“Far too many people inadvertently got addicted because they were following their physician’s prescriptions,” he said.
He said 15 years ago, the state’s opioid problem did not capture public attention the way it deserved because it mainly affected transient and marginalized populations.
“Now that we have everyone’s attention, or hopefully, most people’s attention, we need to work together to find solutions,” he said. “I’m even more committed now than ever, to try to get resources as quickly as possible to people to deal with this issue.”
Last week, the Trump administration announced more than $1.8 billion would be distributed to states to combat the opioid epidemic, $24 million of which is coming to Utah.
Reyes said the state’s allotment of funds was based on Utah’s population and vulnerability to the issue.
DEA agent-in-charge and Utah Opioid Task Force co-chair Brian Besser said most of the public is unaware that an estimated 50 opioid-related deaths occur in Utah each month.
“The reason people don’t know is because they don’t view the problem as their problem,” Besser said.
Until the public grasps it’s not just an individual problem, solutions won’t be as effective, he said.
“The solutions have to be local,” Besser said.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly said 6-ounce pill disposal bottles will be sold for $5. The bottles are free to the public.