Drug take-back data

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chart on drug take-back activity.

One might think that, after four years of trashing tons of prescription medication, the numbers would begin to dwindle, but Vermonters disposed of more than three tons of unwanted prescriptions over the past half-year, a record.

This year’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, held April 27, yielded 6,562 pounds of unused, unwanted and expired medication for disposal, turned in by Vermonters at nearly 70 collection sites statewide.

Add that to the 5,828 pounds collected in October — the state organizes spring and fall take backs — and Vermonters tossed more than six tons. Since the first statewide takeback day in April 2015, Vermonters have disposed of 45,000 pounds of drugs.

“Preventing the distribution and misuse of unused prescription medication is essential as we continue to combat Vermont’s opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment, recovery and enforcement initiatives,” said Gov. Phil Scott, thanking participants and state and local health and public safety officials.

Much of the work was handled by the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Roger Marcoux, a former undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent, has since the start taken a point role in helping other departments gather unused drugs from their communities.

Marcoux said his department delivered 3,670 pounds this go-round, more than half of the most recent haul. All medication is securely transported out of state by the DEA and incinerated.

Marcoux also plans a forum in June at Lamoille Union High School to discuss the opioid problem.

“Getting rid of these leftover prescription drugs, including opioid painkillers, removes a significant potential danger from household medicine cabinets,” said Thomas D. Anderson of Stowe, the state’s public safety commissioner. “Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux deserves special recognition for his ongoing efforts to champion Take Back Day along with year-round initiatives to safely and securely collect and dispose of these drugs.”

Each of Lamoille County’s three law enforcement agencies participated in the drug take back, as did the Kinney Drugs in Morrisville, netting a total of 394 pounds.

The sheriff’s department filled 11 boxes with 176.04 pounds of drugs — a variety of pills and capsules, needles, patches and more.

At the other Lamoille County pickups:

• Morristown police collected five boxes, 113.8 pounds.

• Stowe police, one box, 26 pounds.

• Kinney Drugs, two boxes, 78 pounds.

Around the state

Chittenden County collected far and away the most drugs during the April take back, with 2,258 pounds, more than a third of the entire state’s haul. Little Essex County brought back 18.5 pounds.

Take Back Day is organized in partnership with the Vermont Health Department, Public Safety Department, state and local law enforcement and the DEA to help ensure unused prescription drugs are not misused or taken accidentally and to prevent harm that can occur to waterways and wildlife when medication is flushed or thrown in the trash.

According to Gov. Scott’s office, studies show that 42 to 71 percent of opioids prescribed to surgical patients go unused. They also suggest that prescription drugs are being stolen from family and friends, including medication from the home medicine cabinet.

“These efforts help remove unwanted, expired and unused prescription pills that can be abused, stolen, or resold,” said Brian D. Boyle, DEA special agent in charge of the New England Field Division.

The total amounts of medication turned in during Vermont’s seven previous take back days:

• April 2019: 6,562 pounds

• October 2018: 5,828.75 pounds

• April 2018: 6,008 pounds

• October 2017: 6,007.1 pounds

• April 2017: 5,552.9 pounds

• October 2016: 3,934.4 pounds

• April 2016: 5,094.4 pounds

• September 2015: 5,800.4 pounds

The next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Oct. 26, 2019.

In the meantime, there are three nearby permanent prescription drug disposal sites for Lamoille County residents — at the sheriff’s department in Hyde Park and the Morristown and Hardwick police departments.

The containers, which look something like library book return boxes, are available 24/7, and they accept any dry medications, including unused patches. That means no needles or liquid medications.

In addition, many pharmacies can offer advice on how to get rid of unused medications.

More info: healthvermont.gov/drugtakeback.

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