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April 30, 2016

New drug drop-off boxes installed in Hampshire and Franklin counties

Flickr/The Javorac

Unwanted prescription drugs can now be disposed of safely seven days a week at secure sites throughout Hampshire and Franklin counties.

The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, along with area law enforcement officials, unveiled the installation of the new drug drop-off boxes for community use last Wednesday.

The boxes aim to ease the safe disposal of unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals from medicine cabinets to ensure they aren’t available to be abused, according to District Attorney David E. Sullivan. The boxes also aim to prevent prescription misuse and accidental overdosing, particularly by the elderly, Sullivan added.

More Americans currently abuse prescription-type drugs – which include pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives – than those abusing cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin combined, according to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Abuse.

Sullivan said minors have a particularly high rate of abuse nationwide, though he did not have any statistics regarding prescription drug abuse in the Pioneer Valley.

According to an informational pamphlet, the DA’s office is distributing about the drop-off boxes, one in seven teens admitted to abusing prescription drugs to get high in the past year.

“It’s a public safety issue and a public health issue,” Sullivan said. “From my perspective, educating youth and parents is going to go along with preventing addiction and crime.”

Sullivan said the proper disposal of drugs is also “an environmental issue.”

The green-colored boxes also act as a sustainable way in which people can dispose of products harmful to the environment when discarded improperly, such as when prescriptions are thrown out in the trash or flushed into plumbing systems.

Eighty percent of streams in the country test positive for small amounts of antibiotics from improperly disposed pharmaceuticals, such as flushing medicines down the toilet, Sullivan said, citing a 2002 U.S. geological survey.

He said the boxes will “get medications out of landfills and streams and water supplies.”

The DA’s office has participated in bi-annual “National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day” efforts the past two years.

“These were very successful,” said DA spokesperson Mary Carey. According to Sullivan, these efforts resulted in the collection of over 7,000 pounds of pharmaceuticals.

“Instead of having it once or twice a year, we wanted a permanent program,” Sullivan said.

Now, “the boxes will make it much more convenient for people to drop off their drugs,” Carey said.

Located at the DA’s office as well as at 15 local police departments – including Amherst, Belchertown, Hadley, Northampton and Sunderland stations – all that is required to utilize the drug drop-off sites is the time it takes to make the effort. Pill boxes in their original containers and with personal information blacked out may be disposed free of charge at the sites. From there, the drugs are burned at an incinerator at Covanta Energy in Agawam toxin-free, he said.

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as vitamins and veterinary medicines are admissible for drop-off. Products not accepted for drop-off includes needles and syringes, liquid medications, IV equipment and chemotherapy drugs.

Chelsie Field can be reached at cfield@student.umass.edu.

 

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