According to a study by Trust For America’s Health published last October, Pennsylvania has the 14th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 15.3 per 100,000 people dying from drug overdoses. According to the same study, overdoses from prescription drugs now outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined.
To combat this devastating trend the national Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will continue it’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 26th. The DEA will have more than 5000 disposal sites across the U.S. offering free, safe, and anonymous disposal of outdated and unwanted prescription drugs.
Individuals are sometimes left with excess painkillers after an operation, or after the loss of a loved one. Moon Township Police Chief Leo McCarthy says it is vital that these drugs are not used by anyone who was not prescribed them
“If you have extra medications around the house that are no longer in use you need to dispose of them properly so they don’t fall into the wrong hands - children, young adults, etc.” said McCarthy, “but people are dying from these medications, believe me I’ve seen it.”
The Moon Township Police Department also has a local depository that is open year round and coordinated by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office. McCarthy says that even small municipalities like Moon Township see several prescription drug related overdoses every year.
“When the District Attorney of Allegheny County, Stephen Zappala, contacted me and said ‘hey would you like to collect this 24 hours a day, seven days a week and we’ll help dispose of it’, I said absolutely,” said McCarthy.
Once collected, DEA officials incinerate the drugs. This form of disposal is much safer than dumping pills down a toilet and contaminating water supplies, or throwing them in the trash where the wrong person can find them.
There will be 77 sites across Southwestern Pennsylvania open to receive the dangerous drugs. Last November the DEA collected more than 324 tons of unwanted prescription drugs across the nation.