People in Connecticut and across the nation safely discarded a record amount of unused prescription drugs and vaping materials as part of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s recent Drug Take Back Day.
The total cleared from medicine cabinets nationwide was 985,392 pounds, or about 493 tons of medication dropped off at 4,587 collection sites, the agency recently announced.
In the six New England states, 115,944 pounds of expired, unused prescription drugs, electronic vaping devices and cartridges were collected at 586 sites. That’s more than four times the amount collected in the region (25,810 pounds) during the first Drug Take Back Day in September 2010.
In Connecticut, the total weight collected last week was about 8,000 pounds, compared with about 5,800 pounds three years ago. In total, about 13.6 million pounds or prescription drugs nationwide, including 122,245 pounds in Connecticut, has been collected since the program started, according to the DEA.
Collections at the semi-annual event (in April and October) are anonymous, and the drugs are incinerated at a waste-to-energy plant, Special Agent Timothy Desmond of the agency’s New England Division office said Monday.
Drugs dumped in the trash could be retrieved by people who would take them or sell them or by children, and some drugs flushed down the toilet can contaminate the water supply, the DEA says.
“The bottom line is that removing Rx medicines from the nation’s homes, where they could be stolen and abused by family members and visitors, including children and teens, is very important,” Desmond said.
Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, according to the DEA, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.
The recent Drug Take Back Day was the second event in which the DEA accepted vaping devices and cartridges at any of its drop off locations as long as the lithium batteries were removed, Desmond said.
“DEA is doing all it can to help dispose safely of vaping devices and liquids to get these products off our streets and out of the hands of children,” he said.
In East Hartford, citizens turned in over 100 pounds of unwanted and unused prescription drugs, police spokesman Lt. Josh Litwin said. East Hartford, like some other police departments, also has a year-round drop box for unwanted drugs in the lobby of the public safety complex at 31 School St. Collections are limited to prescription medications, pills, capsules and caplets. Prohibited items include intravenous bags, sharps (anything with a needle or lance), Epi-pens, patches, gels, medications in tubes and liquids.
“The Pharmaceutical Collection Program reduces the risk of prescription drug diversion and abuse, sickness and hospitalizations attributable to inappropriate or outdated medication consumption and environmental damage including groundwater contamination and non-point watercourse pollution,” Mayor Marcia Leclerc said. “Medication disposal is a major public health and safety concern.”
Jesse Leavenworth can be reached at [email protected]
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