Following the most successful event since the inception of a prescription drug take back day in 2010, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is exploring ways to provide prescription take back centers 24/7.
“The next discussion is how do we do this 24/7,” said Kilmartin’s spokesperson Amy Kempe last week.
Presently, the department operates two take back days, one in the spring and another in the fall. On April 28, citizens turned in 2,262 pounds of unused pharmaceuticals, the most of any of the single day collections. In Warwick, citizens could drop off outdated and unneeded prescription drugs at the police station.
Kempe believes recent stories about the high rate of overdose deaths caused by prescription drugs, which exceed injuries caused by automobile accidents, were responsible for the high yield of the collection. The drugs are turned over to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency for incineration.
In response to a more than double increase in overdose cases in the last year, Kent Hospital recently held a press conference to highlight the alarming trend and to also underscore that most of the lethal prescription drugs are obtained from friends and family. In the last six months, ending March 31, the emergency department admitted 74 overdose cases, as compared to 66 for all of the preceding 12 months.
“The response to this event [the take back] was tremendous,” Attorney General Kilmartin said in a statement. “The public understands the dangers of having expired and unused prescription medications lying around in their homes at risk for abuse and misuse.”
Kilmartin also credited increased participation with the more than 40 locations statewide supported by 36 police departments and the city of Providence.
“Each Take Back Day has been more successful than the one previous, which is due in great part to law enforcement participation, offering the public more dropoff locations. Prescription drug abuse is a public health and a public safety issue. This growing epidemic is now the number one cause of accidental deaths in Rhode Island,” said Kilmartin.
In the four events Rhode Island has participated in, citizens have turned in approximately 5,400 pounds of expired and unused prescription medications.
Kempe said establishing locations where people can dispose of prescription drugs 24/7 is not as easy as it sounds. She said there are law enforcement concerns that need to be addressed.
Overall, however, she said, “the public is more aware of the issue.”
She said the aim is to educate the public on proper precautions on how to keep and properly dispose of the prescription drugs. Flushing drugs down the toilet is not recommended because of potential environmental impacts.