By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: April 24, 2019 | 3:45 p.m.
Surry & Sussex among communities hosting take-back sites across Southern Va. Saturday
VIRGINIA – For most, the growing number of orange-tinted prescription bottles and various over-the-counter medications that fill our cabinets get ignored as they’re slid aside to make room for something else, only to remain at risk of abuse or unsafe disposal. This weekend, many local law enforcement agencies are partnering with the Drug Enforcement Agency to give communities a safe place to get rid of unused medications.
April 27 marks the DEA’s annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, an effort across all fifty states to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. The day-long event is highlighted by many localities who hold various take-back and disposal events at community centers and police departments, while also performing other safety checks and offering useful information, at times.
This event comes with the backdrop of the ongoing opioid drug crisis that has gripped much of the country as staggering figures capture the reality of the rise in abuse of prescription painkillers.
According to data provided by the Virginia Department of Health, in 2017, the same year the Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in response to the opioid crisis, there were over 500 prescription opioid overdose deaths in the Commonwealth. In addition, there were nearly 8,600 emergency room visits due to prescription opioid overdoses during that time frame.
Within the health department’s Crater health district, comprised of Dinwiddie, Greensville, Sussex, Surry, and Prince George counties and the cities of Petersburg, Hopewell, and Emporia, 2017 saw five of those eight communities have at least one death from prescription opioid overdoses.
Looking at the 2017 data, four deaths each occurred in the cities of Petersburg and Hopewell. There were two reported prescription opioid overdose deaths in Dinwiddie and Prince George that year, and one in Surry County.
Widening the lens nationally, the numbers become even more sobering as according to data from HHS, in 2016, over 11.4 million people abused prescription opioids, with over 47,000 dying from opioid overdoses. It was estimated by federal health officials that over 130 people die daily from opioid-related drug overdoses.
Entering its tenth year, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events continue to remove ever-higher amounts of opioids and other medicines from the nation’s homes, where they could be stolen and abused by family members and visitors, including children and teens, a point brought up by Dinwiddie Sheriff D.T. Adams, who will be part of his department’s annual event at the Eastside Enhancement Center on April 27.
“It is unsafe to have unused medications lying around where children could get ahold of them or someone looking for drugs could break into your home if they think you have some left over,” Adams remarked.
DEA officials shared those concerns discussed by Adams, saying “Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse.”
“Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs,” they said. “Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.”
As people get older, the number of prescriptions that could be in their home may rise, making them an unsuspecting target for someone who’s looking to abuse medications and steal pills from their prescriptions. When asked, Adams said his department sees a steady number of older residents in the county take part in the annual disposal event.
“Every time we have a take-back event, we collect pounds and pounds of prescription drugs,” adding that their department also accepts those unused or expired medications or the medications of a deceased individual at their office when citizens want to dispose of them properly.
The other advantage of drug take-back events is the ability for the safe disposal of medications. Despite the misconceptions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advises against flushing expired or unwanted prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs down the toilet “unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so.”
According to information provided by the EPA, “In homes that use septic tanks, prescription and over-the-counter drugs flushed down the toilet can leach into the ground and seep into groundwater” while in communities where wastewater treatment plants are utilized, they say water treatments “are generally not equipped to routinely remove medicines” and pouring those medications down the sink or flushing them down the toilet can cause them “pass through the treatment system and enter rivers and lakes,” possibly flowing downstream into sources of a community’s water supply.
In Dinwiddie, Sheriff Adams has seen the community embrace this event and understand its importance.
“People are recognizing that if you are no longer taking a medication, it is best to go ahead and turn it in so they can’t get in the wrong hands,” Adams said.
According to the DEA, during last year’s event, the agency “collected and destroyed close to one million pounds -nearly 475 tons – of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs, making it the most successful event in DEA history” across nearly 6,000 sites in America.
Here is a list of area communities taking part in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. While the event is scheduled nationally from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., check with the community you will be visiting to confirm their take-back operation hours.
Chesterfield County Police Department
Eanes-Pittman Public Safety Training Center
6610 Public Safety Way
Chesterfield, Va. 23832
Colonial Heights City
Colonial Heights Police Department
Colonial Orthopaedics Parking Lot
325 Charles Dimmock Parkway
Colonial Heights, Va. 23834
Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office
Eastside Enhancement Center
7301 Boydton Plank Road
Petersburg, Va. 23803
Emporia Police Department
303 Market Drive
Emporia, Va. 23847
Petersburg City (Two Locations)
Petersburg Police Department
CVS / Pharmacy
2100 South Crater Road
Petersburg, Va. 23805
Petersburg Sheriff’s Office
Walmart #2160 Parking Lot
3500 South Crater Road
Petersburg, Va. 23805
Prince George County
Prince George Police Department
Prince George PD Side Parking Lot
6600 Courthouse Road
Prince George, Va. 23875
Surry County Sheriff’s Office
Surry County Circuit Courthouse Parking Lot
28 Colonial Trail East
Surry, Va. 23883
Sussex County Sheriff’s Office
Call 434-246-5000 for information on drop-off location
For more information on this weekend’s drug take-back event, visit http://deadiversion.usdoj.gov.