In an effort to reduce unneeded and outdated prescription drugs from falling into the hands of those who may abuse them, Mayor Scott Avedisian and Police Col. Stephen McCartney announced yesterday implementation of a permanent prescription drug take-back drop-off initiative at police headquarters, located at 99 Veterans Memorial Drive in Apponaug.
A secure collection box is now available at any time for residents who wish to dispose of unused or unwanted prescription medications safely and conveniently.
The box, located in the headquarters lobby, is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Items that will be accepted are prescriptions, prescription patches, medications and prescription ointments, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, samples and medications for pets. Pills should be placed in a Ziploc-type bag for disposal; residents are asked not to leave medications in pill bottles that display personal identification and medical information.
Items that cannot be accepted are hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, inhalers, sharps/needles, medication from businesses or clinics, and ointments, lotions or liquids.
While used needles/sharps will not be accepted, those wishing to dispose of those materials can do so through the AIDS Care Ocean State’s ENCORE Needle Exchange Program, the state’s only needle exchange program. Call 781-0665 for more information, or drop materials at their facility, located at 557 Broad St., Providence.
The department’s program is part of a larger initiative among law enforcement and public health officials to address the increasing problem of prescription drug abuse and overdoses – an issue of increasing concern in Rhode Island.
According to a report released in October by The Trust for America’s Health, Rhode Island has the 13th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the country and the highest in New England, with about four overdose deaths every week. Further, from 2009 to 2012, the state Medical Examiner’s Office identified 646 drug overdose fatalities. Of those, 26 percent resulted from illegal drugs, 53 percent from prescription drugs, and 21 percent from a combination of both.
Within the first 13 days of the New Year, 22 Rhode Islanders died from a drug overdose in municipalities across the state. There were 27 overdose deaths for the month as compared to 18 for January 2012.
Avedisian noted that recent studies found that more than 70 percent of the roughly six million Americans who abuse prescription drugs got them through friends or relatives.
“In the past several years, our police department has taken part in national Prescription Drug Take Back Days – and our collection rate was among some of the highest in Rhode Island,” Avedisian said. “This demonstrates that, if residents have an easy and safe way to dispose of prescription medications, they will take advantage of the opportunity. I thank Col. McCartney and our officers for recognizing the value of this initiative and moving forward quickly to get it in place.”
“As we learned at the recent Protect Families First community forum concerning opiate overdose prevalence and prevention in Rhode Island, abuse of pain killers often leads to dependency on illicit drugs such as heroin,” McCartney said in a release. “By disposing of expired and unused prescriptions, we can impact accessibility of these pills in the household, where they are often taken by addicted family members or stolen by guest or service providers. The prescription drug market has attracted many first-time, low-level dealers looking to profit from what can be commonly found in medicine cabinets.”
The program is entirely anonymous, with no personal information provided or recorded by police.
In addition to overdose and related concerns, improper disposal of prescription drugs can also impact the environment. These compounds have been found in waterways across the country, raising concerns about potential risks and effects on water quality and organisms that live in the water. One should never flush old prescriptions down the drain.
This drug take-back program is a cooperative effort between the Police Department and the State of Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, with the support of several municipal departments and organizations, including the Warwick Department of Human Services, Department of Public Works, Warwick Sewer Authority, and the Warwick Youth Prevention Task Force.