LONDON – Nearly 1.5 tons of medications were collected by Operation UNITE as part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s 13th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
“This was the largest amount of pills that have been brought in for disposal by citizens across southern and eastern Kentucky,” said Nancy Hale, president and CEO of UNITE. “According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, two-thirds of teens who report abuse of prescription medicines are getting them from friends, family members and acquaintances, often without their knowledge.”
Held Saturday, April 29, in communities across the country, the DEA’s Take-Back Day program aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse and medications.
During the most recent six-month period, UNITE collected 2,947 pounds of medications, surpassing the previous record by more than 600 pounds.
State and national Take-Back Day totals from April 29 were not immediately available, but through October 2016 more than 7.2 million pounds of medications – including opioid and other medications susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse – have been safely removed and destroyed.
“Prescription drug misuse is a public health crisis that leads to addiction, and far too often overdose deaths,” Hale said, noting in 2015 Kentucky was tied with Ohio for the third highest rate of overdose deaths (at 29.9 percent) in the nation – with neighboring West Virginia leading the way at 41.5 percent.
“Prescription drugs are the most commonly misused substances by Americans age 14 and older – after marijuana and alcohol,” Hale continued. “We need to continue getting more expired, unused and unneeded prescription drugs out of circulation and disposed of properly.”
To help with this effort, UNITE works in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies and anti-drug coalitions to promote medication drop-off locations at 42 sites in, or adjacent to, the 32-county UNITE service region. These sites are available year-round, generally during regular business hours.
Citizens taking medications to a drop box are asked to remove all identifying labels from the container. Liquid products, illicit substances, and anything with a needle are not accepted.
For a list of locations, visit http://operationunite.org/investigations/med-drop-box-sites/ or contact UNITE at 1-866-678-6483.
Since October 1, 2012, UNITE has now collected 19,454.7 pounds (more than 9.7 tons) of medications from these drop boxes.
“Prescription opioid pain medications are an important tool for managing the pain of people who have had surgery or other severe injuries,” said Richard Baum, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “but the misuse of these medications and the use of heroin have taken a heartbreaking toll on too many Americans and their families while also straining law enforcement and treatment programs.”
Another reason for properly disposing of medications is to keep them from making their way into the water system and soil.
For years, the generally accepted method for disposing of old or left over medications was to flush them down the toilet. This practice, however, has been strongly discouraged because of concerns about potential health and environmental effects of antibiotics, hormones, painkillers, depressants and stimulants making their way into our water system and soil.