Residents with excess prescription drugs still in the home have a safe and easy opportunity to get rid of them. On Saturday, Sept. 23 Guilford is holding its third annual Prescription Drug Take Back Day at the Guilford Police Department headquarters from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Organized by State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98) in coordination with Guilford DAY (Developmental Assets for Youth) and the Guilford Police Department, the event is designed to raise awareness and encourage residents to clean out their medicine cabinets. Scanlon, who has dedicated a substantial part of his time in Hartford to fighting the opioid epidemic, said something as small as removing unused prescription drugs from the house can have a big impact.
“Four in five new heroin users begin by misusing prescription drugs and of those that do, 50 percent of them get them from a family member or a loved one at first,” he said. “When you do the math on that, you can see why most experts view this as the central, root cause of this epidemic because there is so much out there and people don’t realize how deadly and dangerous they are sitting right there in their medicine cabinet.”
DAY Prevention Coordinator Robyn Sneider said events like this are a good way to raise awareness and protect youths in the community.
“We have learned that a medicine cabinet can be a gateway to drug abuse without anyone even realizing it,” she said. “The take back day is an opportunity to promote the safe disposal of unused medications. It helps our prevention efforts by reducing risk in the community since we are eliminating access to drugs.”
Scanlon said the take back day started as a part of a back to school initiative. Scanlon said the first year of the event, close to 60 pounds of medication was turned in and the second year the number was a bit lower—close to 40 pounds of medication was turned in.
“I said 40 pounds is less, but if you think about it, 40 pounds of pills is still a tremendous amount of drugs,” he said. “This is not just a one-day thing. We do it this one day to raise awareness, but that box is there 365 days a year and it is totally anonymous and people can go in there any time they want and drop their stuff off. We do this to get a lot of volume in one day, obviously, but we want to make sure that people know that it is there every day.”
The box, located at Guilford Police Headquarters, does get a lot of use. Use of the box is completely anonymous, unmonitored, and all medication collected is later incinerated. Guilford Police Chief Jeff Hutchinson said in 2014—the first year the box was installed—398 pounds of medication was collected; in 2015, 720 pounds of medication was collected; and in 2016, 873 pounds of medication was collected.
“People are getting the message that the box is here,” he said. Before the box was installed, “We used to have the drug take back day once a year, but we saw how much need there was for that box, so it was money well spent.”
The opioid crisis, specifically overdoses, is a problem in Guilford and across the country. Guilford police report 16 overdose calls and two overdose deaths in the current year and Scanlon said overdoses continue to kill residents across the state at an alarming rate.
“More people in our state will die...this year from overdoses than from gun violence, suicides, and car accidents combined,” he said. “I think it is very sad and frustrating that the number continues to grow given all of the work that we have done in the last three years to combat this in the legislature, but I think the number would be a lot worse had it not been for some of the stuff we have done.”
Scanlon helped pass a bill in 2015 that limits first-time opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply and said legislation like this will hopefully result in noticeable changes soon.
“I think over time you are going to start to see some data showing that the number of prescription pills that are in our society are way down,” he said. “Then in time I think if we can stop new people from getting addicted and get the folks who are addicted treated, then we will see the number of overdoses go down.”
Scanlon said he hopes to see many residents participate in this awareness event.
“I hope everyone will take just five minutes to clean out his or her medicine cabinet and come on down to the police station,” he said.
The Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Guilford Police Headquarters, 400 Church Street. The box to drop off medication is always available to the public at the station.