Letter: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day can help save lives

Every year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts two National Prescription Drug Take Back Days. The first event of the year is coming up on April 24. Communities nationwide coordinate events on this date to help residents properly dispose of their unwanted, unneeded or expired prescription drugs.

The DEA, police departments and community partners work together to safely collect and dispose of the unused medication. This prevents these tempting drugs from being thrown out, contaminating the water supply, or being found by curious members of our households. These events have brought in more than 6,800 tons of prescription drugs over the past 10 years.

This event is critical for local police departments to participate in. Overdose deaths were unfortunately climbing before the pandemic and have continued to rise since the stay-at-home orders were issued a year ago. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the rate of overdose deaths increased by 35% in multiple states, including Illinois, during the first eight months of 2020.

Often there are leftover prescription medications that get stored under the sink or in a medicine cabinet and promptly forgotten about by the household. Unfortunately, studies have found that most individuals who have misused prescription medications have gotten them from family or friends. These medications may even be found by little household members or pets, which could lead to an accidental overdose.

Hosting these events will not prevent all overdose deaths. However, if it prevents access to these highly addictive medications for at least one individual, the effort will be worth it. I encourage you to check outtakebackday.dea.gov to find out if your police department is participating this year. Take a few minutes to clean out your own cabinets and encourage others in your community to participate as well.

Jessica Reed