Niagara Gazette

September 27, 2012

National Take Back Initiative returns Saturday

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — They've already jailed two Niagara County doctors who flooded the streets with prescription medications, now federal drug agents and the U.S. Attorney's office is turning back to the public for help.

On Saturday, law enforcement agencies around Western New York, including those in Niagara County will join in for the fifth National Take Back Initiative to be held here.

The program is staged twice a year and it allows the public to drop off unneeded or unwanted prescription medications at designed sites, no questions asked.

"Western New York is known to be an area that has a large quantity of unwanted or unneeded prescription drugs out there and we're trying to get a message out," U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York William Hochul said. "We're energizing the public to take control and make their own contribution to fighting this epidemic."

Prescription drug abuse has been one of the fastest growing crimes in the Falls in recent years. Narcotics detectives say they're making more arrests involving prescription pills and investigators believe the abuse is fueling an uptick in burglaries and thefts.

The most recent local Take Back Initiative saw six tons of medication dropped off. That translates to over 18 million pills.

Since the program began in 2010, each initiative has seen a dramatic increase in the size of the drop offs. The first drop-off saw about two tons worth of pills.

The jumped to four tons the next time and five tons after that. 

"It has been trending up," Hochul said. "Whether it's higher or lower this time is not important. I just hope we get every unneeded pill out of everyone's medicine cabinet."

The U.S. attorney says the depth of the prescription pill problem here is illustrated by some sobering statistics about teen abuse.

According to Hochul, studies show one out of every six high school students say they have taken a prescription pill without a doctor's prescription. Out of that number, one in three says the pill was given to them by a friend or family member.

"The corner drug dealer here is really your own medicine cabinet," Hochul said. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, fatal poisonings from (prescription drug) overdoses tripled nationally to nearly 14,000 deaths between 1999 and 2006 and emergency room visits for the misuse of prescription drugs doubled from 500,000 to 1 million between 2004 and 2008.

Hochul said he believes the message about the danger of having unwanted or unneeded prescriptions lying around the house is getting out and that's why the April initiative here saw the largest drop off total in the nation.

"All these substances begin as a legal commodity," the U.S. Attorney said. "It's what happens after they get in the home that presents the danger."

DRUG DROP OFFS All locations will accept drop-offs between 10 a.m, and 2 p.m. Saturday. LEWISTON -- Mount St. Mary's Hospital, 5300 Military Road NIAGARA FALLS -- Former Falls police headquarters, 520 Hyde Park Boulevard