Drug drop boxes to be set up at Naperville firehouses

A significant contributor to the rise in local heroin use over the past few years could soon be less problematic.

Beginning Tuesday, the Naperville Fire Department will have secure disposal containers for unneeded prescription medications available at all of its stations, all the time. The program until now has been offered only at limited locations, generally during hours when the lobby is open.

Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis said the service will launch at all 10 firehouses simultaneously.

“Every fire station will have a prescription drug drop-off box, if you will, attached to the outside of the fire station that will be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “We will manage that, internally within the Fire Department. We will make sure that those boxes are removed and disposed of through our household hazardous waste program periodically, based on how much they are used.”

Because traces of medicines disposed of through household drains and toilets wind up in public water supplies, the program will help water quality, Puknaitis said, as well as minimizing the likelihood of prescription drug abuse.

Many experts have cited the availability of unused opiate-based pain medications and other prescribed drugs left in home medicine cabinets as a major gateway to heroin addiction. When the overlooked opioids have been consumed, they say, the abusers often move on to heroin, which provides the same highly addictive intoxication and is much less expensive and easier to obtain.

“I think this plan is going to be very successful,” Puknaitis said. “The only thing that we will not accept is needles or syringes, and we have that very clearly marked.”

A public ceremonial unveiling of the drop box program is scheduled at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Fire Station 7, 1380 Aurora Ave., Naperville.