Drug Take Back Day is back 

  • NORTHWESTERN DISTRICT ATTORNEY DAVID E. SULLIVAN

Published: 10/22/2020 10:26:02 AM

In early March, the Northwestern District Attorney’s office was busy planning for an April 25 National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, when it became clear that the twice-yearly collection would have to be canceled.

Police and sheriffs’ officers, who staff the Take Back Days, were going to be busy as first responders during the coming public health crisis, and senior citizens, who help administer the collections, would need to stay home, out of the virus’s path.

Seven months later, National Drug Take Back Day is back.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., you can bring your unused medications to one of 16 locations in Hampshire and Franklin counties and the town of Athol for secure disposal.

This will be the 19th Drug Take Back Day, established by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2010 to raise awareness of the importance of removing drugs from medicine cabinets to prevent their misuse.

We know that among teens who have used prescription drugs to get high, most obtain them not from drug dealers or the internet, but from the family medicine cabinet.

As the pandemic has persisted, the national crisis of addiction and drug overdoses has not abated. Data from our office show that opioid-related overdoses in Hampshire and Franklin counties have increased 15 percent during the first four months of 2020, compared to 2019.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already difficult situation by reducing access to life-saving treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, while increased stress and isolation might increase the risk of addiction and substance use disorders (SUDs),” Leana S. Wen, a former Baltimore City Health Commissioner, and Nakisa B. Sadighi wrote last week in The Lancet medical journal.

According to a recent American Medical Association issues brief, “More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.”

Getting unneeded, unwanted or expired medications out of circulation so they don’t fall into the hands of those they aren’t intended for is something we all can do to improve the well being of our community.

Drug poisoning deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, outnumbering deaths by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide, according to the DEA’s 2019 National Drug Assessment.

Expired or unused medications may interact with other drugs, if they’re not taken according to a prescription, and even commonly used over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, acetaminophen or supplements pose a danger if taken in large amounts. Medications removed from their bottles and stored in pill organizers may not be childproof.

Drug Take Back Day is a strictly no-questions-asked event, and is actually well-suited to the times, as community members can simply drive up to one of the 16 drop-off locations and give their drugs to a law enforcement officer without getting out of their car.

All prescription and non-prescription, vitamins and non-prescription drugs will be accepted and can remain in their original containers with labels. Liquids, syringes, IV equipment or chemotherapy drugs cannot be accepted.

The drugs will be boxed, sealed, and taken by police or sheriff’s officers to Community Eco Power in Agawam for incineration.

Participating communities this year include Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Goshen, Hadley, Northampton, Pelham, Southampton, Williamsburg and Worthington in Hampshire County; Deerfield, Greenfield, Leverett, Montague and Sunderland in Franklin County and Athol in Worcester County.

Over the years, we have heard many stories from people who were grateful to have a place to finally dispose of their drugs safely. Sometimes they had been saving them for years after a loved one’s death, knowing it was not safe to simply throw them away or flush them down the toilet. Since 2011, we have collected over 57,000 pounds.

Since the early days of Drug Take Back Day, the NWDA , local law enforcement and other partners have established permanent Drug Boxes throughout the region, many of which reached capacity months ago.

We’re thrilled to be part of the team that will allow community members to dispose of their drugs at Take Back 2020.

David E. Sullivan is the Northwestern District Attorney.


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