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Local agencies, DEA to collect unused prescription drugs

Prescription drugs, including opioids and antidepressants, are responsible for more overdose deaths than “street drugs” such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, according to the Center for Disease Control.

In an effort to prevent increased pill abuse and theft, local agencies are working with the Drug Enforcement Administration on the first-ever prescription drug “Take-Back” initiative to collect expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs.

Slated to take place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sept. 25 in the VIN inspection area in front of the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office (in front of the courthouse), the service will be free and anonymous.

As part of the reasoning behind the effort, DEA statistics show that every day, on average, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time.

One in seven teens admit to using prescription drugs to get high in the past year, while 60 percent of teens who abused prescription pain relievers did so before the age of 15, according to DEA statistics.

Additionally, 56 percent of teens believe that prescription drugs are easier to obtain than illicit drugs (63 percent of teens believe prescription drugs are easy to obtain from the medicine cabinets of family and friends), while two in five teens believe that prescription drugs are “much safer” than illegal drugs, and three in 10 teens believe that prescription pain relievers are not addictive.

Unintentional overdose deaths involving prescription opioids increased 174 percent between 2001 (3,994) and 2006 (11,001), the most recent year data is available, according to the DEA.

For the initiative, law enforcement personnel will collect any prescription medicine, including those that contain controlled substances — substances that the federal government limits in distribution and handles in a special way — including narcotics, stimulants and tranquilizers. No needles will be accepted.

Those desiring a higher level of anonymity can dump the pills out of the bottle into the receptacle or can black out their name on the prescription bottle.

Those desiring anonymity should, as Undersheriff John Weiss advised, wait until arriving at the location to take medicines out of bottles in case they are pulled over on their way to the site or are involved in an accident.

Weiss emphasized that safety, not identification, is the goal of the initiative.

Once collected, the prescription drugs will be kept under control of law enforcement until properly disposed of through incineration, according to the DEA.

The nationwide effort is a collaboration between the DEA, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association for Attorneys General, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National District Attorneys Association.

Locally, the program is being organized by the ACSO, Pagosa Springs Police Department, Pagosa Prevention Coalition, Archuleta County Solid Waste Department and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District.

Collection sites throughout the country can be found at www.dea.gov.

For more information on the dangers of prescription drug abuse, parents can visit getsmartaboutdrugs.com and teens can visit justthinktwice.com.

randi@pagosasun.com