Getting a Load off the Streets: National Take-Back Drug Day a Huge Success
The eighth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, held Saturday, April 26, was a resounding success, according to reports coming in from across the U.S. Nationwide, 6,072 collection sites participated in the event, resulting in truckloads of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs being taken off the streets – and out of the hands of children and those bent on using them nonmedically. In total, 780,158 pounds, or 390 tons, of pills were collected and sent for disposal by incineration.
Since its inception in 2010, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has collected and incinerated more than 4.1 million pounds (2,123 tons) of prescription drugs. In 2013, more than 6,000 locations nationwide collected a total of 647,211 pounds or 324 tons of unneeded medications. Unused medications in homes pose a public health and safety concern, according to the DEA. They are highly susceptible to accidental ingestion, misuse, abuse and theft. Almost twice as many Americans, 6.8 million, currently abuse prescription drugs than the number using heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens and inhalants combined, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
State Specifics on Drug Drop-Off
In the state of Utah, which had over 45,000 pounds of drugs collected since the start of the program, 59 collection sites around the state were operational for the April 26 take-back event. Drop-off locations included Cedar City’s Smith’s Food and Drug pharmacy, in cooperation with the DEA and the Iron County Sheriff’s Department. In addition to the twice a year event, the Cedar City Police Department has a box in their office to collect unused medications throughout the year.
According to Utah’s state health department, about 300 deaths in the state are linked to prescription drugs every year. The majority of fatal overdoses involve opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin and Percocet.
In Northern Virginia, sources say that over 3,150 pounds were collected. In Alexandria, police collected 188 pounds of prescription drugs – all headed for destruction at three sites in the city.
Statewide, Kentuckians brought in 1,200 pounds of unwanted prescription drugs. Concerned citizens in Florence, KY brought 121 pounds of prescription drugs to the Florence Police Department to be disposed of, including cholesterol medications and diabetes drugs and potent painkillers. The department transports the collected drugs to a DEA drop-off site in Indianapolis, Indiana. From there, collected boxes are ultimately taken to Cincinnati, where they are incinerated. In addition to the two national take-back days each year conducted through the DEA, Florence has two drop boxes where people can drop off unneeded medication 365 days a year. This is the reason that the Florence department collects more unwanted prescription drugs annually than any other agency in Northern Kentucky.
Colorado’s Attorney General John Suthers said that two-thirds of prescription drug abuse in the state is tied to unused drugs lying around in people’s homes. In four years, Colorado has collected 65 tons of prescription drugs. State leaders are trying to make it easier for citizens to regularly drop off unwanted drugs by having collection bins at places like police stations. But the problem is how to safely dispose of them. A bill currently pending in Congress would give broader authorization for destruction.
More than 1,000 residents brought unwanted, unneeded prescription drugs to 160 drop-off locations in Maine. In Portland, 2,235 pounds of medications were collected, the largest single collection ever in the state. In Gorham, the city’s police department collected 25 pounds of drugs in the first hour alone.
The four-hour event in St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans, Louisiana resulted in 49 pounds of “mostly prescription drugs” being taken off the streets and headed for safe disposal.
Officials in New Jersey’s Hunterdon County reported the drug take-back day a success after a record-setting collection of nearly 600 pounds of prescription drugs. As part of a similar effort in Warren County, the Hackettstown Police Department took in 125 pounds of unwanted drugs. In addition to the twice-yearly event, citizens can drop off unwanted prescription drugs at two locations in Warren County and six in Hunterdon County throughout the year. These locations are part of Project Medicine Drop, a statewide program to curb widespread prescription drug abuse. The program began in 2011 and is now in all 21 New Jersey counties.
Howard County, Marylandcollected more than 1,030 pounds of prescription drugs and a record number of needles, syringes and EpiPens. According to the Howard County Police Department, the collection was 160 percent more than the April 2013 event and a 20 percent increase over last October’s event.
The state of Ohio collected and disposed of more than 14 tons of unwanted prescriptions during the weekend’s take-back drug collection event. Ohio officials had urged state residents to get these drugs off the streets, noting recent survey results showing that four in 10 teens that have misused or abused prescription medications got them from their parents’ medicine cabinet.
- In Indiana, 12 tons were collected.
- At 117 locations across Kansas, 11,687 pounds of unwanted drugs were dropped off, surpassing the state’s April 2013 record of 10,193 pounds collected.
- In the Pacific Northwest, residents of Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska turned in 15.9 tons of prescription medications. This number is the second highest for the Pacific Northwest. Washington and Idaho both had record high collections, 8.3 tons and 2.4 tons, respectively.
- In Iowa, 123 community collection sites gathered 8,840 pounds of unused medications.