KINGSTON, R.I. – September 20, 2010 – They are prescribed for back injuries, torn knee ligaments, oral surgery and for dulling the pain following numerous types of surgeries. But long after the pain subsides, remnants of the treatments remain in people’s medicine cabinets.
They are the federally controlled substances–painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet or Oxycontin. Other medications in the controlled substance category include stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (such as Adderall) and medications to treat anxiety (such as Xanax or Valium).
Such medications are potentially addictive and are becoming increasingly abused by teen-agers across the country.
That’s why a team from the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy is urging people to participate in the National Drug Enforcement Agency’s Take Back Day Saturday, Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. URI faculty and students have been distributing informational flyers promoting the event.
“By law, pharmacists cannot take back controlled substance medications once they are dispensed,” said Anita Jackson Derreza, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy. “That’s why we are promoting this Take Back Day with the DEA and area law enforcement units.”
Individuals may bring their medications to the following locations:
• Bristol County Sheriff’s Dept., 1710 Fall River Ave., Seekonk, Mass.
• Charlestown Police Department, 4901 Old Post Road
• Cumberland Police Department, 1380 Diamond Hill Road
• East Providence Police Department, 750 Waterman Ave.
• Fall River Police Department, 685 Pleasant St., Fall River, Mass.
• Middletown Police Department, 123 Valley Road
• Newport Police Department, 120 Broad St.
• Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General, 150 South Main St. Providence
• Warren Police Department, 1 Joyce St.
• Warwick Police Department, 99 Veterans Memorial Drive
• Woonsocket Police Department, 242 Clinton St.
Those seeking additional locations may go to www.DEA.org and type in their zip code or city/town name and state.
“We are most interested in collecting any drug that has addiction potential,” Derreza said. “The collection is free and anonymous; people seeking to drop off medications will not be asked questions. Police are not collecting illegal substances or needles or syringes.”
Derreza used the example of a patient having a tooth pulled to illustrate what can happen with prescriptions. “So you have a tooth pulled and your oral surgeon gives you 20 Percocet tablets, but you only need a few. You decide to keep the rest in case you have another need for them later. But if such medications sit in medicine cabinets, teens can come across them and then be taken at what are known as ‘pharming’ parties.”
Young people often believe that taking prescription drugs is safer than taking illegal substances because they come from a pharmacy. Plus teens don’t have to have an exchange with a street dealer to obtain them. But they can be just as dangerous, Derreza said.
“Plus if people hold onto these drugs beyond their expiration dates, they can be dangerous at worst and ineffective at best,” Derreza said.
She said the College has also worked with Save the Bay to promote the event. Current U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy says that unused or expired medicines should be flushed down the toilet.
“While there is no evidence that such a practice is harmful to the environment, we don’t really know the long term-effects,” Derreza said. Derreza and her team are hoping for a big turnout Saturday to maximize the collection of these medications and reduce access to controlled substances by teenagers so those involved can see the benefit of permanent drop boxes being placed in police stations.
“Nationally, 4.5 million or 20 percent of teens have abused prescription drugs,” she said. “There are 1 million trips to emergency rooms around the country each year for prescription overdoses.”