This article originally appeared in the New Haven Register on Oct. 18 and was written by Juliemar Ortiz and Sam Norton.
In an effort to tackle prescription drug abuse, police departments across Greater New Haven will be setting up drop-off locations Saturday where residents can safely dispose of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Take Back Day.
New Haven police spokesman Officer David Hartman said the initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue.
“Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet,” Hartman said in a press release.
Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse, according to Milford police Officer Joseph Dempsey.
“In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines — flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash — both pose potential safety and health hazards,” Dempsey said.
Pills or patches can be dropped off at designated locations, no questions asked. Liquids, needles or sharps are not accepted.
This will be the 12th time the DEA has held the nationl event in six years, with the goal being to prevent pill abuse and theft by collecting and safely and securely destroying unwanted medications. Last April, Americans turned in more than 893,000 pounds of prescription drugs, and more than 6.4 million pounds in the past six years.
In Guilford, state Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, and American Idol winner Nick Fradiani are urging residents to clean out their medicine cabinets and take part in the national effort.
“Connecticut, like all states, is in the midst of a public health crisis when it comes to prescription drug and heroin addiction and more people will die from overdoses in our state this year than from car accidents,” Scanlon said in a news release.
In 2015, Scanlon sponsored a take-back day that collected more than 60 pounds of drugs in just two hours.
“A woman came in with a huge box and as she was putting the old pill bottles into the bin she would say, ‘This was my son’s soccer injury,’ or, ‘This was my daughter’s wisdom teeth surgery,’ and I said to her, ‘Oh, what year are your kids at (Guilford High School)?’ And she looked at me and said, ‘Sean, my kids graduated from high school in the ’90s.’ That story has always stuck with me because I realized people just don’t know how to properly get rid of these pills or the importance of doing so in the first place,” Scanlon said in the release.
Data shows that 4 in 5 new heroin users begin their addiction by abusing prescription drugs, with 50 percent of them getting the narcotics from a family member or friend, the release said.
“This simple step, believe it or not, can actually save lives,” Scanlon said.
In 2015, Scanlon co-sponsored legislation that expanded education for doctors about the dangers of over-prescribing and required them to check a secure database before prescribing to ensure people were not “doctor shopping” — going from doctor to doctor for the same prescription. This year, Scanlon wrote and passed legislation making Connecticut the second state in the nation to limit all first-time opioid prescriptions to a 7-day supply with exceptions for those with terminal illnesses and chronic pain. The bill also allows patients who are still in pain after 7 days to return to their doctor and get a refill, according to the release.
“Because of this new law, gone are the days when an 18-year-old goes home from getting their wisdom teeth out with 50 pills when they only need 5 to 6 until they feel better,” Scanlon said. “So we’re tackling future excess in a responsible way but we still have so many pills out there due to decades of over-prescribing and that’s what the take back day is all about.”
Visit these locations in Greater New Haven Saturday to safely dispose of unwanted prescription drugs:
• New Haven: Police headquarters, 1 Union Ave., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• East Haven: Police substation at 150 Cosey Beach Ave., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Guilford: Police headquarters, 400 Church St., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• West Haven: Police Headquarters 200 Saw Mill Road (every day).
• Hamden: Lobby of police headquarters, 2900 Dixwell Ave.
• Branford: Police headquarters, 33 Laurel St. 10 a.m to 2 p.m.
• Orange: CVS Pharmacy, 279 Boston Post Road, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Milford: Milford Senior Center parking lot, 9 Jepson Drive.