Colchester police collected just over 66 pounds of medication last Saturday, April 29 as part of Prescription Drug Take Back Day, a national initiative to safely dispose of expired, unused or unwanted prescriptions.
State health officials call the drugs lingering in many medicine cabinets “Vermont’s most dangerous leftovers,” noting national data shows 80 percent of heroin users began with prescription opioids.
“That means four out of five heroin users became addicted with prescription drugs,” public safety commissioner Thomas D. Anderson said. “In Vermont, over 600,000 prescriptions for opioids were written in 2015. Take Back Day is a way for all Vermonters to help ensure unused opioid medications won’t be diverted and misused.”
Disposals in Colchester filled two large cardboard boxes, Lt. Doug Allen said. Statewide, Vermonters dropped off a total of 5,552 pounds of medication at 71 collection sites staffed by local police, according to a press release from Gov. Phil Scott’s office. Saturday’s collection of more than 2.5 tons far exceeded the 3,934 pounds collected last October, and the Drug Enforcement Administration estimates approximately 10 percent of the drugs collected last weekend are opioids.
“The opioid crisis facing Vermont is a statewide problem and will require a statewide solution,” Scott said in the press release.
“Every one of the thousands of pills disposed of means there are fewer chances for drug misuse and addiction,” health commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said. “These efforts, together with patients talking with their doctor about alternatives to prescription opioids, and getting the fewest number of pills required for treatment when opioids are deemed necessary, will really make a difference.”
Officials also noted the negative environmental impact of unsafe drug disposal – when prescriptions are thrown in the trash or flushed down the drain, they can contaminate waterways and impact wildlife, pets and people.
“I want to thank all Vermonters who participated in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, as well as health and law enforcement professionals who contributed to this successful collection initiative,” Scott said. “Getting prescription opioids out of family medicine cabinets and destroyed is an important part of the overall strategy to reduce the availability of opioids in Vermont.”
To find a year-round drug disposal site near you, dial 211 or visit healthvermont.gov/drugtakeback.
“Anyone can become addicted to prescription opioids,” Levine said. “The longer drugs stay in the medicine cabinet, the more likely they are to fall into the wrong hands.”