Unused prescription drugs falling into the wrong hands – it’s a story the Director of the Greene County Drug and Alcohol Program John Fox said he hears often.
“Grandpa had a hip replacement and was prescribed some opioid for pain. He took them as prescribed and didn’t need them all, but just like many folks [he] kept the prescription in the medicine cabinet,” Fox said. “And then fast forward a couple of years, grandkid goes to the medicine cabinet and finds these and tries them. That’s one way young people get into problems. It makes sense.”
To combat the misuse of unused prescription drugs in Greene County, the Greene County Drug and Alcohol Program partnered with the Greene County Sheriff’s office to participate in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s nationwide “Drug Take Back Day” on Saturday, Oct. 24.
On Saturday, Greene County residents were able to bring their unwanted prescription drugs to the Greene County Courthouse – Church Street Entrance – from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The service was free and anonymous.
The DEA explains the purpose of the nationwide event on their website, “the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day 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 of medications.”
This year marked the DEA’s 19th National Take Back Day. Last year, 441.5 tons of prescription drugs were collected from the 6,174 participating sites.
Fox said the Drug Take Back Day is important because substance abuse more often than not starts in our own homes.
“One of the pathways into substance abuse where people get into trouble starts in their own family’s medicine chest or grandparent’s medicine chest,” Fox said. “The spirit and intent of the drug take-back is that folks can get rid of unused, unneeded, unwanted prescriptions.”
As opposed to flushing unwanted prescription drugs down the toilet, Fox said the Drug Take Back Day provides a safer option for disposing of unused medications.
“They can be any prescriptions; it doesn’t have to be an opioid or a specific type of medication. It can be anything that people just want to get rid of because they no longer need it and it’s a safe way to do so,” Fox said.
The Greene County Drug and Alcohol Program announced they would not be accepting liquids, syringes, thermometers, ointments, lotions or aerosol cans. To properly dispose of these, residents can visit the FDA’s website.
The FDA advises individuals to dispose of all prescription drugs as soon as possible because “keeping medicines after they are no longer needed creates an unnecessary health risk in the home.”
The National Institute of Drug Abuse recorded the number of prescription overdoses in the United States in 2018 to be 14,975.
Every year, Greene County experiences an average of 12 to 13 overdoses, according to Greene County coroner Gene Rush. Since March, Greene County has experienced 8 overdoses.
The Drug Take Back attempts to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription drugs in order to combat substance abuse and future prescription overdoses.
Greene County has been participating in the event for a number of years, according to Fox, and will continue to participate in the future.
Even though the number of opioid overdoses in Greene County has stayed “about the same” over the years, Fox said it is important to still participate in these events as the Greene County Drug and Alcohol Program continues to work toward a solution.
“There’s always going to be a problem. Even though you like to think that you are employing strategies to reduce it,” Fox said. “It’s just a problem and it’s going to continue to be a problem and that’s why we continue to do the work.”