Niagara Gazette

October 6, 2012

OUR VIEW: Take-back program is a hit

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Another drug take back day has passed and once again thousands of pounds of unwanted or expired prescriptions were turned in to authorities to be disposed of in a proper manner. 

The event is designed to curb prescription drug abuse and reduce the amount of poisons that enter the environment. This is an excellent program that we hope doesn’t go away any time soon.

We don’t have official numbers from the fifth National Prescription Drug Take Back Day event — held on Sept. 29 — but based on previous event’s statistics from local agencies, we’re sure it was a success.

Throughout Western New York, 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.

It’s pretty obvious why the program is needed.

According to The Partnership at Drugfree.org, one in six teens has used a prescription drug in order to get high or to change their mood, and two-thirds of teens who abuse pain relievers say they get them from family members and friends.

That means one of two things: Either parents are turning a blind eye, or they need to put a padlock on the medicine cabinet. In any event, the numbers of teenagers abusing prescription drugs is staggering.

As for the environment, simply flushing unwanted medicine and drugs down the toilet — a practice used for decades — is not encouraged in some circles; recent studies have noted trace amounts of medicines in the water system.

The FDA acknowledges this, reporting that “flushing contributes only a small fraction of the total amount of medicine found in the water,” with most coming from natural bodily removal. Still, the FDA suggests flushing only “when a medicine take-back program isn’t available.”

But local officials are making sure take-back programs will be readily available — after all, they’re pretty successful.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York William 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,” he said. “It’s what happens after they get in the home that presents the danger.”