Manatee County has new tool to destroy drugs

Manatee County received 10,000 pill-destroying Deterra bags

Drug-Free Manatee is partnering with local organizations like Meals on Wheels to get these bags out to the public.

MANATEE COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Manatee County has a new tool to fight drug abuse.

Officials at Drug-Free Manatee just received a shipment of 10,000 Deterra Bags. These unique bags can destroy prescription drugs before they get into the wrong hands.

Prescription drug abuse is rampant in Manatee County. The county has some of the highest rates of overdose deaths in the state. Studies show most of the addicts are young adults or the elderly. Because of this data, officials at Drug-Free manatee received these Deterra bags for a pilot program.

The Associate Director of Drug-Free Manatee, Rita Chamberlain, said, “What we’re trying to do is prevent misuse.”

Officials say prescription drug abuse often starts at home. Drug-Free Manatee Project Director Dr. Jessica Spencer said, “[Teens] generally will open up the medicine cabinet and that’s where they find their first pill.”

So the Deterra bags can safely destroy them. Inside are pouches of specially formulated carbon. Each bag can hold up to 90 pills. So you toss in the drugs and fill the bag with warm water.

The process immediately starts breaking down the pills. After shaking it for a few moments, the medicine is neutralized and worthless, and you can safely throw them away. It’s much easier than carting your drugs away to a police department for disposal.

Chamberlain said, “There’s a certain reluctance to walk into the sheriff’s office or to walk into a police station and deposit drugs.”

Deterra bags are also safe for the environment. If you throw your medicine away in the garbage or down the toilet, the medicine can seep into the aquifer or even kill wildlife.

When she was 18, Brandilyn Karnehm dabbled into abusing pain medicine. “It seemed like everyone was doing it,” Karnehm said.

Soon, she became a full-fledged addict. And she often stole to get her fix. She said, “If you leave stuff in your medicine cabinet and there’re addicts around, people do go through your meds.”

Karnehm sees Dettera bags as a promising tool in the fight to get them off the streets. She said, “It could probably help stop it for the next generation of teens.”

And that’s part of the idea behind the pilot program. Officials hope to not only destroy lots of these unused drugs, but they also hope to inspire a mindset of the importance of getting rid of drugs in the home before they end up on the streets.

Chamberlain said, “We know that if we don’t put the structure in place for prevention, there will be another drug down the road that’s gonna create similar havoc. You had cocaine decades ago, you have heroin now, there will be something else.”

Drug-Free Manatee is partnering with local organizations like Meals on Wheels to get these bags out to the public. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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