Those wanting to limit the chances of others getting a hold of their unwanted medications can turn the prescriptions in to the Kane County Sheriff's Office, where even Sheriff Pat Perez can't touch them.
"We have a very secure system," Perez said.
The sheriff's office is among other local law enforcement agencies that accept unused prescription drugs so they can be properly disposed.
In addition to the environmental benefits – medications can contaminate the water supply if they are flushed or thrown away – handing prescriptions over to the authorities can reduce the risk of them getting abused.
"You don't want that temptation there," Perez said, noting it is common for heroin addictions to start with prescription medication use.
The sheriff's office – which has offered the program for at least three years, Perez said – did not introduce the program to Kane County. Geneva police said that honor belongs to them, as their department launched its program in May 2010.
Geneva Sgt. Brian Maduzia said in an email that Officer Eddie Jackson noticed the elderly and their families often were burdened with an abundance of unused, unwanted and expired prescription drugs.
"He was also concerned about young children visiting their grandparents and getting a hold of these prescription drugs," Maduzia said. "We definitely had a community need for a safe, effective way for disposing of prescription medications."
Creating a drug disposal program involved extensive research with the DuPage County Sheriff's Office and collaboration with Delnor Hospital and representatives from Geneva Coalition for Youth, Carlson Tools, Smith & Richardson Inc. and Black's Auto Rebuilders, Maduzia said.
He said the program has since evolved into a partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which began National Prescription Drug Take-Back events in September 2010.
Although the Geneva Police Department originally accepted prescription drugs from anyone, it – along with the St. Charles and Batavia police departments – now restricts the program to its residents.
The residency requirement makes the program more manageable, police said.
"We were emptying it once or twice a week, and now it's less frequent," St. Charles police spokesperson Lisa Blackwell said.
The sheriff's office accepts medications from anyone, Perez said.
Evidence technicians empty the collection box at the sheriff's office and keep the medications in the evidence room until the DEA comes for it, Perez said, noting that happens twice a year. He said the agency destroys the prescriptions in an incinerator.
Geneva police collect about 400 pounds of prescription drugs each year – an amount matched by St. Charles police last year.
Nearby Campton Hills, meanwhile, gets about 90 pounds of medications on each of the national take-back days – the only time the village accepts those drugs, Campton Hills Police Chief Dan Hoffman said.
Hoffman said he has looked into offering the program year-round like the other departments, but it's too cumbersome for his department.
"We don't have the resources to monitor it," he said. "Whenever anybody calls, I send them to Kane County."
By the numbers
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has collected more than 4 million pounds of medications since it began National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days in 2010.
The amount collected for each event is as follows:
• 242,000 – Sept. 25, 2010
• 376,593 – April 30, 2011
• 377,086 – Oct. 29, 2011
• 552,161 – April 28, 2012
• 488,395 – Sept. 29, 2012
• 742,497 – April 27, 2013
• 647,211 – Oct. 26, 2013
• 780,158 – April 26, 2014
Source: The Drug Enforcement Administration