More than 1 ton of outdated or unwanted medication was collected from Operation UNITE’s 42 medication dropbox locations across southern and eastern Kentucky as part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 30, 2016. This number represents 21.77 percent of the total collected in Kentucky (9,752 pounds).
“A total of 2,123 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter pills has been sent for proper disposal by incineration,” said Nancy Hale, UNITE president and CEO. “That is a lot of medication that will not be available for misuse or abuse – and it won’t result in negative health and environmental effects of antibiotics, hormones, painkillers, depressants and stimulants making their way into our water system and soil.”
Kentucky ranks second in the nation, along with New Mexico, for the most drug overdose deaths per capita – behind only West Virginia, according to a June 2015 report by the Trust for America’s Health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky’s overdose deaths quadrupled from 241 in 2000 to 1,077 in 2014, the latest year for which stats are available.
Prescription medications are now the most commonly abused drugs among 12- to 13-year-olds. Two-thirds of teens who report abuse of prescription medicine are getting them from friends, family and acquaintances, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
“It is so important to monitor, secure and properly dispose of the medicines in your household – including over-the-counter cough medicine,” Hale said. “We are pleased with the response from citizens, and encourage everyone to spread the word about UNITE’s 42 free medication dropbox locations.”
DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, speaking at the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit sponsored by UNITE in Atlanta in March, noted last September’s take-back day event was very successful.
“We took in 741,000 pounds of unwanted and expired drugs in over 5,000 locations throughout the United States,” Rosenberg said. “By some estimates only about 10 percent of that haul are opioids. Even if that’s true, even if it’s only 10 percent, that’s 74,000 pounds of opioids. So it only makes sense to do it again and again and again. This is an unmitigated good.”
Operation UNITE has helped establish the permanent medication dropbox sites starting in October 2012. With this weekend’s collection, UNITE has now collected 14,207.7 pounds of medications – more than 7 tons.
The DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which began in October 2010, aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposal, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of these medications.
While totals from this past weekend were not yet available, more than 5.5 million pounds of pills have been removed from circulation nationwide.