First-ever take-back drug campaign reaps tons

-A A +A
By Carol A. Clark

The public turned in more than 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs through 4,000 take back sites across the nation Sept. 25. Locally, community members dropped off their drugs at a booth set up in the parking lot at Los Alamos Medical Center.
“We had a great turnout, people brought us their expired prescription drugs as well as drugs from deceased family members that they didn’t know what to do with,” Det. Jeremy Duran said. “The pills we collected filled a container that was a foot and a half tall by a foot deep and a foot wide.”
Det. Ron Binion and Cpl. Monica Salazar and Cpl. Eric Wilhoit joined Duran at the LAPD booth to help process all the pills.
“We really want to thank the public for making this effort so successful, we intend to hold future ‘Take Back’ events,” Duran said. “People wishing to dispose of drugs now can go to the DEA Web site for advice on the proper disposal.”
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration sponsored the nationwide event.
“The Take-Back Campaign was a stunning nationwide success that cleaned out more than 121 tons of pills from America’s medicine cabinets, a crucial step toward reducing the epidemic of prescription drug abuse that is plaguing this nation,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart in a news release.
“Thanks to our state and local law enforcement and community partners – and the public – we not only removed these dangerous drugs from our homes, but also educated countless thousands of concerned citizens about the dangers of drug abuse.”
Currently, there are no legal means to transfer possession of certain prescription drugs for disposal. In late September, Congress cleared legislation for President Obama that will allow DEA to create a framework for a permanent solution for prescription drug disposal. Until permanent regulations are in place, however, DEA will continue to hold one-day take-back programs.
“I applaud Congress for recognizing the magnitude of this threat to public health and safety and passing the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which will provide Americans with safe, environmentally sound ways to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs,” Leonhart said.
More than 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or family – often from the home medicine cabinet, said Director R. Gil Kerlikowske of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“Expanding take-back efforts nationwide is a key strategy in preventing prescription drug diversion and abuse, while safeguarding the environment,” Kerlikowske.
“The International Association of Chiefs of Police also supports the DEA’s take back effort saying expired, unused or unwanted controlled substances in the home represent a potential source of supply for the increasing abuse of pharmaceutical drugs in the United States and pose an unacceptable risk to public health and safety.
DEA and other law enforcement working at disposal sites around the country reported huge turnouts of people ridding their medicine cabinets of unused or unwanted drugs. For example, in Troy, Missouri, a man literally brought his kitchen drawer full of medication to the collection site to empty. At another site in Jacksonville, Ill., a woman brought in nearly 50 years’ worth of medicines for disposal.
This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. More than seven million Americans abuse prescription drugs, according to a 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Every day, on average, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Other participants in the DEA’s take back initiative include the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of Attorneys General, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National District Attorneys Association.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com