New Deterra system deactivates discarded medications


HOPKINTON — The small black bags on the counter at Wood River Health Services may not look special, but they are changing the way people dispose of their unused medications. When drugs are placed in a Deterra pouch with some water, they are completely neutralized so they can be safely thrown in the trash. The Deterra disposal system not only eliminates the risk of narcotics abuse for unused prescriptions, but solves the growing problem of discarded medicines polluting the environment, especially water.

The Chariho Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention distributed Deterra bags to police stations and health centers throughout southern Rhode Island. Dan Nesmith, a task force member, said one of the group’s objectives is to keep discarded medications out of the wrong hands.

deterra-bag.jpg“One of our strategies has been to get rid of the excess drugs in households, and to keep them out of reach of children or other folks who might abuse them,” he said. “We had the drug collection boxes that we arranged to have placed in all the police departments, and we also had lock boxes that we made available through our partners in the community, but there was always that one part missing — the folks who couldn’t get out of the house who had stuff in their house that they wanted to get rid of.” Nesmith said he first saw Deterra at a national substance abuse prevention conference in Atlanta, Ga., and the task force decided to order them for distribution to the towns. “We felt that kind of filled a gap,” he said. “This allows folks to deactivate the drugs so they can be safely disposed of, and they’re environmentally safe.” The bags are easy to use. Drugs are placed the pouch with water, and the bag is sealed and placed in the trash. Depending on the quantity and type of the drugs, total deactivation takes a maximum of eight hours.

Wood River President Michael Lichtenstein said the center received its first Deterra bags about two weeks ago. “This is relatively new to us,” he said. “People are fascinated by it. We’re happy to participate and create more safety in our community by helping people more easily dispose of medicines that should be dumped appropriately.”

The Deterra bags are already popular with Wood River clients. “We put them out as soon as they came in,” Wood River Nurse Manager Bonnie Cooper said. “We put out 20 of them, and within an hour, they were all gone.” The bags are made by Verde Technologies of Minnetonka, Minn. They come in several sizes, but the task force has distributed the larger size, which accommodates 90 pills, 354 ml of liquid or 12 patches.

Verde Technologies’ Chief Commercial Officer, Christine Horton, said the company launched the product last February. Horton noted that what makes the system different is that it doesn’t just dispose of medications, it neutralizes them, using activated carbon. “There are hundreds of different types of activated carbon,” Horton said. “This carbon is specific for the molecular size that pharmaceutical compounds break down to. Once that pharmaceutical molecule is available, then the carbon encapsulates it so it encircles the entire molecule, and that’s what renders the drug irretrievable.” Horton said disposing of prescription drugs at home also kept prescription labels and other personal information private. “You don’t have to load up your medications with your name and all this information on them and take them somewhere else. Instead, you’re just going to put your drugs in there, throw them in your household trash, they’re going to be rendered inert. They’re going to go to the landfill, but the bags are going to be biodegradable, and you’re going to peel off those labels off those medicine bottles and you’re going to shred them,” she said.

Deterra also offers a promising solution to the problem of discarded medications polluting the environment. Even in rural areas of the country, drugs are being detected in ponds and streams, and are believed to be adversely affecting fish and wildlife. In addition to the line of home disposal systems, Verde makes larger Deterra systems for institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes, which, in many states, are permitted to pour unused medications down the drain.

In Charlestown, where drinking water contamination is a concern, the town’s Potable Water Working Group is preparing a brochure for distribution in the more densely-populated neighborhoods telling residents what measures they can take to keep their water safe. Town Council President Thomas Gentz said properly disposing of unwanted medications is a key element of the town’s water protection plan. “The town already has a box at the police station for pills and pill boxes to be disposed of that was donated, and now with this new system where they can take the envelopes home and dispose of them and put them in the trash at home is another plus for the town,” he said. “We’re thrilled that we have the donation from the substance abuse task force to provide these, so pharmaceuticals can be safely disposed of and not get into the ground water by people flushing them down their toilets into the septic system.”

Charlestown Police Chief Jeffrey Allen said he was glad to have a disposal system that also takes liquids. “We really don’t have a lot of inquiries about liquids, but we know they’re out there,” Allen said. “So you have to ask the question, what are they doing with it? They’re just pouring it down the toilet or throwing it on the ground, so for environmental reasons, I think this is even more important than law enforcement.”




- Photo courtesy of the Richmond Police Department -



Chief Elwood Johnson & Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci


On March 27th, 2014, a 14-year-old student of the Chariho Middle School was arrested on charges of (1) distributing a controlled substance in or near a school, and (2) possession of a controlled substance, after a joint investigation into an incident in which a teenaged Chariho Middle School student required medical attention.  The student experienced a reaction after consuming a “marijuana candy” that he/she had obtained on March 26th from the aforementioned 14-year-old suspect.  A small bag of the suspicious unlabeled hard candy was retrieved from the suspect, which was submitted for toxicology testing at the RI Department of Health.   

On March 27th, a 14-year-old student was arrested at Chariho High School on two (2) counts of possession of a controlled substance. School surveillance video taken in a hallway was reviewed and two (2) students involved in an apparent drug transaction were identified.  The above student was found to be in possession of two (2) 36-mg Concerta pills (methylphenidate HCl) for which she had no prescription, and another controlled substance in the form of an unlabeled hard brown candy.  The brown candy-like substance tested positive for traces of methamphetamine, but more conclusive toxicology testing shall be conducted at the RI Department of Health.  As a result of that investigation, on April 7th, 2014, a second 14-year old student from Chariho High School was charged with one (1) count of distributing a controlled substance in or near a school.  Investigation into this activity continues.

We are taking the unusual step of issuing a joint press release regarding these two incidents because of their unique, dangerous and unsafe nature.  The use of a candy-like item to conceal an illegal, controlled substance raises a number of significant concerns (see image).  Communication with the community to raise awareness is key to preventing unnecessary tragedies.

We are committed to doing everything possible to maintain a drug-free school environment, but need the assistance of the community, especially parents, to do so.  We call on all students and the entire school community to refuse the use of illegal substances, to live a healthy lifestyle, and to respect the educational environment as one reserved for teaching and learning.  We request that parents use this incident as a teachable moment to reinforce the expectation that illegal substances be rejected.  We will do the same here at school.

The Chariho Regional School District and the Richmond Police Department, along with other relevant agencies, will continue to cooperatively and collaboratively work together to keep our schools and our students safe. 


To assist parents and/or students who may be seeking support regarding substance abuse issues, we offer the following contact information for counseling resources at Chariho Regional High School and Chariho Regional Middle School:

Deirdre Murphy, LCSW  nida-teens-logo.png
Prevention Counselor
(401) 364-7778 x 2143

Terri Censabella, SAC
Prevention Counselor
(401) 364-0651

Additionally, resource information is available through the Chariho Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention:

Contact person:

Kathy L. Gardner
DFC Grant Manager/Community Outreach
(401) 330-9592

The Chariho Task Force is a volunteer, working task force comprised of individuals who are interested in substance abuse prevention issues in the Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton and Narragansett Tribe communities.

Current Task Force members include school, prevention and treatment professionals, youth, parents, law enforcement, faith community, health care, youth organizations, business owners, media and local government. All members live and work in the Chariho region.

The Chariho Task Force has meetings on the second Monday of each month at the Chariho Middle School. Meetings are open to all interested community members.

The Chariho Better Health Forum 2014

“What Do You REALLY Know? Get the TRUTH”

• E-Cigarettes: Good or Bad?
• Marijuana: The Blunt Truth
• Surprise Honoring a Local Hero
• Matt Bellace - “Getting High Naturally”


Reserve Now
Chariho SADD

Chariho Task Force Objectives

Define alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues and their impact on our towns.

Work together to find effective strategies to prevent the use of or abuse of substances in our youth.

Collaborate with the school district, local government officials, health care providers and law enforcement organizations, and to develop and sustain substance abuse and violence prevention activities throughout the year.

Work with Prevention Practitioners in RI to develop and maintain best practice programs.

Establish positive community norms to prevent substance abuse through advocacy, education, parental programs and youth leadership opportunities.

Work with our schools, our communities and all students, and in particular, high risk students to provide effective education, support and alternative programming.