HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Officials from the PA State Police, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), and others encouraged residents to be mindful of unwanted or unused prescriptions around the house.
Saturday was National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and officials say it’s now easier than ever before to properly dispose of unused prescription drugs. Each year, the DEA hosts two prescription drug take-back days, one in the spring and one in the fall.
“To collect unwanted, expired, unneeded medications and then dispose of them safely,” said Jennifer Smith, Secretary for the PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, when speaking about the purpose of the program. “All too often, unused prescription drugs find their way into the wrong hands,” she added.
Smith says during the Spring take-back in April, 33,000 pounds of medications were collected and destroyed.
“Last April, during national take-back day, here in Pennsylvania alone, nearly 200 law enforcement entities participated, over 250 collection sites were established, and nearly 33,000 pounds of prescription drugs were collected,” said Smith. “When you consider that one pill weighs about the same as a sheet of paper, it really puts the magnitude of 33,000 pounds into perspective,” she added.
Since the establishment of PA’s drug take back program in 2015, there has been over one million pounds of prescription medication destroyed, equivalent to the weight of an Airbus A-380 or roughly 40 school buses.
“Hundreds of thousands of unused and expired prescription drugs are circulating in every corner of our society,” said Smith. “This small act of disposing of unused, unwanted or expired medication could very well save your loved one or a community member from falling victim to the disease of substance use disorder,” Smith added.
Officials say many Pennsylvanians struggle with opioid misuse as the result of leftover opioid prescriptions, or those from friends and family members.
“We know that 70 percent of Pennsylvanians who misuse opioids get them from a friend or relative’s medicine cabinet. 60 percent of Pennsylvanians who are prescribed opioids end up with leftover pills, and four out of five heroin users begin struggling with substance abuse disorder through abusing prescription drugs,” James Elo, Regional Director with the Office of Attorney General.
Secretary Smith says it’s also smart to check your household for unwanted or expired prescriptions to ensure it doesn’t fall into the hands of children.
“If it gets into the hands of a young child, or anyone for whom it wasn’t prescribed, it really could be dangerous. Not just from a potential to lead to substance use disorder, but just from a medical perspective that an individual taking a prescription that wasn’t prescribed to them could really be dangerous,” said Smith.
There are 900 take-back locations across Pennsylvania’s 67 counties that are available year-round. They can be found at many pharmacies, libraries, and state police barracks.
“When it comes to prevention, I’m proud to say our agency has 65 prescription drug take-back boxes installed in the lobby of our stations in nearly every county. These drug take-back boxes offer the public a safe, easy, and anonymous way to drop off your unwanted or expired prescription medications,” said Lieutenant Adam Reed with the PA State Police.
Officials also say to refrain from disposing medication down the toilet or sink.
“You also don’t want to be flushing medication down the toilet or down the sink because some of the chemicals in there could contaminate water supplies,” said Smith.