Dispose of unused medications during ‘Drug Take-Back Day’ Saturday

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: April 26, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.

Numerous communities hosting take-back sites across Southern Va. Saturday

VIRGINIA – For most, the growing number of orange-tinted prescription bottles and various over-the-counter medications that fill our cabinets get ignored as they’re slid aside to make room for something else, only to remain at risk of abuse or unsafe disposal. This weekend, many local law enforcement agencies are partnering with the Drug Enforcement Agency to give communities a safe place to get rid of unused medications.

April 27 marks the DEA’s annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, an effort across all fifty states to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. The day-long event is highlighted by many localities who hold various take-back and disposal events at community centers and police departments, while also performing other safety checks and offering useful information, at times. 

This event comes with the backdrop of the ongoing opioid drug crisis that has gripped much of the country as staggering figures capture the reality of the rise in abuse of prescription painkillers.

According to data provided by the Virginia Department of Health, in 2017, the same year the Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in response to the opioid crisis, there were over 500 prescription opioid overdose deaths in the Commonwealth. In addition, there were nearly 8,600 emergency room visits due to prescription opioid overdoses during that time frame. 

Within the health department’s Crater health district, comprised of Dinwiddie, Greensville, Sussex, Surry, and Prince George counties and the cities of Petersburg, Hopewell, and Emporia, 2017 saw five of those eight communities have at least one death from prescription opioid overdoses. 

Looking at the 2017 data, four deaths each occurred in the cities of Petersburg and Hopewell. There were two reported prescription opioid overdose deaths in Dinwiddie and Prince George that year, and one in Surry County.

Widening the lens nationally, the numbers become even more sobering as according to data from HHS, in 2016, over 11.4 million people abused prescription opioids, with over 47,000 dying from opioid overdoses. It was estimated by federal health officials that over 130 people die daily from opioid-related drug overdoses.

Entering its tenth year, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events continue to remove ever-higher amounts of opioids and other medicines from the nation’s homes, where they could be stolen and abused by family members and visitors, including children and teens, a point brought up by Dinwiddie Sheriff D.T. Adams, who will be part of his department’s annual event at the Eastside Enhancement Center on April 27.

“It is unsafe to have unused medications lying around where children could get ahold of them or someone looking for drugs could break into your home if they think you have some left over,” Adams remarked. 

DEA officials shared those concerns discussed by Adams, saying “Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse.”

“Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs,” they said. “Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.”

As people get older, the number of prescriptions that could be in their home may rise, making them an unsuspecting target for someone who’s looking to abuse medications and steal pills from their prescriptions. When asked, Adams said his department sees a steady number of older residents in the county take part in the annual disposal event.

“Every time we have a take-back event, we collect pounds and pounds of prescription drugs,” adding that their department also accepts those unused or expired medications or the medications of a deceased individual at their office when citizens want to dispose of them properly.

The other advantage of drug take-back events is the ability for the safe disposal of medications. Despite the misconceptions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advises against flushing expired or unwanted prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs down the toilet “unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so.”

According to information provided by the EPA, “In homes that use septic tanks, prescription and over-the-counter drugs flushed down the toilet can leach into the ground and seep into groundwater” while in communities where wastewater treatment plants are utilized, they say water treatments “are generally not equipped to routinely remove medicines” and pouring those medications down the sink or flushing them down the toilet can cause them “pass through the treatment system and enter rivers and lakes,” possibly flowing downstream into sources of a community’s water supply.

In Dinwiddie, Sheriff Adams has seen the community embrace this event and understand its importance.

“People are recognizing that if you are no longer taking a medication, it is best to go ahead and turn it in so they can’t get in the wrong hands,” Adams said.

According to the DEA, during last year’s event, the agency “collected and destroyed close to one million pounds -nearly 475 tons – of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs, making it the most successful event in DEA history” across nearly 6,000 sites in America.

Here is a list of area communities taking part in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. While the event is scheduled nationally from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., check with the community you will be visiting to confirm their take-back operation hours.

Chesterfield County

Chesterfield County Police Department

Eanes-Pittman Public Safety Training Center

6610 Public Safety Way

Chesterfield, Va. 23832

Colonial Heights City

Colonial Heights Police Department

Colonial Orthopaedics Parking Lot

325 Charles Dimmock Parkway

Colonial Heights, Va. 23834

Dinwiddie County

Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office

Eastside Enhancement Center

7301 Boydton Plank Road

Petersburg, Va. 23803

Emporia City

Emporia Police Department

Walmart

303 Market Drive

Emporia, Va. 23847

Petersburg City (Two Locations)

Petersburg Police Department

CVS / Pharmacy

2100 South Crater Road

Petersburg, Va. 23805

Petersburg Sheriff’s Office

Walmart #2160 Parking Lot

3500 South Crater Road

Petersburg, Va. 23805

Prince George County

Prince George Police Department

Prince George PD Side Parking Lot

6600 Courthouse Road

Prince George, Va. 23875

Surry County

Surry County Sheriff’s Office

Surry County Circuit Courthouse Parking Lot

28 Colonial Trail East

Surry, Va. 23883

Sussex County

Sussex County Sheriff’s Office

Call 434-246-5000 for information on drop-off location

For more information on this weekend’s drug take-back event, visit http://deadiversion.usdoj.gov.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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