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October 26, 2013

DEA: We'll take your RX drugs

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Wanted: Expired and unused prescription drugs that are taking up space in medicine cabinets, household shelves and kitchen drawers.

Some area law enforcement agencies are collecting the drugs today as part of a national effort to take unused prescription drugs out of circulation to prevent drug abuse and to reduce access by children. The seventh National Prescription Drug Take Back Day hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., organizers said.

Authorities report that prescription drug abuse among children and youths is a more widespread problem than generally realized and is increasing, U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian in Albany said in a media release. He urged parents, grandparents, teachers, nurses and communities to help stop the abuse of prescription drugs among young people.

“We must do all we can to monitor the prescription drugs that are in our possession, discard unused medications properly and talk with young people about the very real dangers of prescription drug abuse,” Hartunian said in a prepared statement promoting the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s take-back program.

Lt. Douglas Brenner of the Oneonta Police Department said Friday that the prescription drugs are taken “no questions asked” and put into a box, which later will be picked up by the DEA for disposal. The program gives residents, including senior citizens, an opportunity to clear out unused or expired drugs and eliminate worries about unauthorized access, he said.

“It’s a very good program,” Brenner said.

The Otsego County Sheriff’s Office also is collecting unwanted prescription drugs, no questions asked, a media release said. In April, the Sheriff’s Office collected more than 20 pounds of unused prescription drugs.

The free collection program provides a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposal, while also educating the public about the risks of prescription drug abuse, deputies said.

As of noon Friday, the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control website reported that the agencies listed below are participating in today’s collection:

- SUNY Oneonta University Police, 1 Alumni Hall, at the State University College at Oneonta campus.

- Oneonta Police Department, 79 Main St., Public Safety Building, Oneonta.

- Otsego County Sheriff’s Office, 172 County Highway 33W, Cooperstown.

- Norwich Police Department, 18 E. Main St. in the city.

- Cobleskill Police Department, 173 S. Grand St., Cobleskill.

“The abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs happens in many, often innocent, ways, but the costs of such abuse can be astronomical,” Hartunian said in the release. 

After marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the commonly abused drugs by youths, he said. 

“These aren’t drugs being manufactured behind closed doors and sold on street corners these are substances readily available in each of our homes,” he said.

Hartunian said one in eight teens has reported getting high on over-the-counter cough medicine and one in 12 high school seniors reported nonmedical use of the prescription pain reliever Vicodin, along with one in 20 reporting use of OxyContin.

More than half of the estimated 2.4 million first-time prescription drug abusers were females, according to Hartunian, and about one-third of them were between 12 and 17 years-old. Among adults ages 18 to 25, 5.9 percent reported using nonmedical drugs within the past month in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health study.

“What’s most alarming about these trends of use is where young people are obtaining these drugs,” Hartunian said. “Over half of those who reported nonmedical drug use said they were given the drugs by a friend or relative. Close to 20 percent said they took the substances from a friend or relative.”