CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office already is looking forward to the next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day to build on the success of previous events.
"This continues our effort to support prescription drug take-back initiatives year round," said Curtis Johnson, press secretary for the Attorney General's Office, said during an interview with The West Virginia Record. "In addition to participating in the DEA’s event, our office has provided funds for year-round prescription drug drop boxes throughout West Virginia. We recently doubled down on that effort with additional funding for incinerators, which will help police departments destroy the pills their citizens return."
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
The Attorney General's Office participated in the most recent event, the 12th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, in coordination with Capitol Police Oct. 22 near the East Rotunda on the California Street side of the West Virginia Capitol.
"We are pleased to once again join this national effort to help rid our state of unwanted prescriptions and unused over-the-counter medication," Morrisey was quoted in a news release issued ahead of the October Take-Back event. "Safely disposing of medication is an important way that we can keep drugs out of the wrong hands."
The Capitol site was one of more than 100 collection locations throughout West Virginia. The state's Attorney General’s Office has participated in the Take-Back events each year since 2013.
The Take-Back days are spearheaded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which launched the program in 2010. During Take-Back events, participating local and state law enforcement agencies collect unused medication for responsible disposal. The DEA typically hosts two prescription drug take-back days per year in the spring and fall.
About 4.3 million people in the U.S. 12 and older say they are current non-medical users of pain relievers, which ranked as the second most common type of illicit drug, according to the 2014 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). That same study revealed a majority of people abusing prescription pain relievers obtained them through friends or relatives.
Prescription drug abuse remains a significant problem in West Virginia as well as the nation, the according to information released by the state's Attorney General's office. A report found that the Mountain State has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. At about 35.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, it is more than double the national average.
In May, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced funding for four drug incinerators across the state to destroy unwanted and expired prescription drugs. That funding is part of the Dispose Responsibly of Prescriptions (DRoP) initiative that has distributed drug disposal drop boxes throughout West Virginia.
More than 5,800 pounds of unwanted medication was collected during a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day event in West Virginia last year, according to a Attorney General's office press release. "Our office has taken numerous proactive steps to help eradicate the substance abuse epidemic that has ravaged our state," Morrisey was quoted in that press release. "This is yet another step to hopefully achieve that end."
During the October event, almost 366 tons of medication was turned in at about 5,200 collection sites nationwide, according to a statement released by the DEA after the day's events. Since the Take-Back days began, more than 3,500 tons of prescription drugs have been removed from medicine cabinets, kitchen drawers, and nightstands by citizens around the country, the statement said.
"Take back programs offer a safe, simple, and anonymous way to keep dangerous prescription drugs out of the wrong hands and prevent substance abuse," Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg was quoted in the statement.
The final tally for the most recent Take-Back day in West Virginia isn't available but the amount taken in at the Attorney General's office alone was substantial, Johnson said. "This year’s event went very well. It resulted in our office collecting a full garbage bag of pills," he said. "That's an increase from previous years when we may have only received half a bag."
The DEA also maintains a database of collection sites where unwanted medications can be turned in between Take-Back days.