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My Turn: Prescription drug side effect

It’s time to get out-of-date and unwanted drugs out of our homes, so they don’t fall into the wrong hands and contribute to a burgeoning drug problem in Franklin County. It is a sad reality that most of the prescription drugs abused by teens come from family medicine cabinets and from family and friends.

Saturday, April 27, is the sixth National Prescription Drug Take Back Day and my office and partners will be accepting unwanted drugs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Greenfield High School, Ashfield Town Hall, Bernardston Senior Center, Deerfield Town Offices, Erving Police Station, Montague Safety Complex and Orange Police Station.

The drugs will be properly incinerated at a certified facility the same day they are collected, as flushing pharmaceutical drugs down the toilet or throwing them away in the trash can have a negative impact on our environment. A recent study shows that 80 percent of streams in the United States contain small amounts of human antibiotics. Fish and other aquatic animals have also shown adverse effects from medicines in the water.

Getting prescription and other drugs out of circulation is a priority of my office. They are implicated in a wide range of incidents from unintentional overdoses to suicides and crimes ranging from petty theft to the series of bank robberies we have recently witnessed. Abuse of “legal” drugs has also created a market for illegal drugs, chiefly opiates, and given rise to a growing heroin infestation in the county. According to the state Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Abuse, although OxyContin is a prescription drug, it is also an opiate like heroin and people who get addicted to OxyContin often switch to heroin.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 1 in 7 teens admit to abusing prescription drugs to get high in the past year. Some 60 percent of them did so before the age of 15. Among teens who have abused prescription drugs, 70 percent said that they got them from a family member or a friend — often without their knowledge.

We have had great success getting drugs out of circulation as a result of National Prescription Take Back days.

During the last Take Back Day on Sept. 29, more than 320 pounds were collected at eight sites in Franklin County. A total of 9,580 pounds, just short of five tons, have been collected in the Northwestern District of Hampshire and Franklin Counties and the town of Athol over five Take Back events.

Nationally, over 2 million pounds or 1,000 tons, have been collected, so far.

This year, thanks to a partnership between my office, local police, Councils on Aging, Hampshire and Franklin County sheriffs’ departments, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Covanta Energy and area prevention coalitions we were able to establish permanent drug drop-off boxes at police stations in 15 communities in Hampshire and Franklin counties. We have seen a great public response to the permanent boxes and drugs are being properly disposed of on a regular basis.

Towns with drop-boxes include Amherst, Athol, Belchertown, Deerfield, Erving, Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, Montague, Northampton, Orange, South Hadley, Sunderland and Ware.

The boxes are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all prescription and non-prescription drugs as well as vitamins and veterinary meds are accepted. Medicines may remain in their original container with labels. Help get unwanted prescription drugs out of circulation on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day and with Permanent Drug Drop-off Boxes

David E. Sullivan is the Northwestern District Attorney.

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