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Drug Take Back Day

Middle Tennesseans disposed of hundreds of pounds of unused or expired medications as part of the most recent Drug Enforcement Administration’s national drug take back day.

The initiative is one that local officials say helps to keep drugs away from teens and others who could abuse them, to combat dependence and avoid accidental overdoses amid a nationwide epidemic.

DEA: Take Back Day addresses ‘crucial’ issues

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which was Oct. 26, aims to address a “crucial public safety and public health issue,” according to the DEA.

The DEA hosts drug take back days twice a year, in April and October, said Sumner County Anti-Drug Coalition Project Coordinator Meagan Griffith.

On April 17, a total of 937,442 pounds — more than 468 tons — of prescription drugs were collected at more than 6,000 collection sites with 4,969 law enforcement agencies participating.

Last October, more than 914,000 pounds — more than 457 tons — of prescription medications were collected at 5,839 sites with 4,770 agencies participating, according to the DEA.

The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs, and the majority of abused drugs came from family and friends, including from medicine cabinets at home, the DEA states.

Drug Take Back Day in Middle Tennessee

“We collected 342 pounds of unwanted medications” at eight locations around Sumner County that the sher-iff ’s office attended, Chief Deputy Aaron Pickard said.

“There are many reasons for holding the take back events,” Pickard said in an email to the Tennessean. “The Sheriff’s Office wants to provide a convenient way to keep drugs out of the hands of our teens to hopefully prevent dependence, and keep drugs away from little people to avoid accidental overdose. Take back events also help to keep our waterways clean.”

Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove said many people with leftover pain medications opt to flush them down the toilet to get rid of them.

“We express not to,” he said. “It’s terrible for the water system.”

Sumner residents disposed of a total of 427 pounds of unused and expired medications at 10 drug take back locations countywide, Griffith said. The coalition took to Facebook to credit the DEA, the sheriff’s office, the White House Police Department and local pharmacies and businesses for participating.

Sumner County Anti-Drug Coalition Director Kit Sinyard said it seems recent drug take back days have collected a “little lower” amounts. She credited TN Together, a state plan to address the opioid crisis. A new law that took effect in January restricts opioid prescriptions to a three-day limit, she said.

“It is important to dispose of unused or expired medications to reduce the chance of those medications falling into the wrong hands,” Griffith said in an email to the Tennessean. “Keeping medications in your home that you are no longer using increases the chances of it being used by those it was not originally prescribed to. This could be children mistaking it for candy, curious teens, repair men/women that may be battling addiction, etc.”

In White House, the police department reported 85 pounds of prescription medication were collected at Kroger on Highway 76 East.

The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office participated in the drug take back day, collecting nearly 150 pounds of prescription medication in the CVS parking lot on Memorial Boulevard in Springfield.

Cheatham County residents distributed prescription drugs at the Ren-Mar Center in Pleasant View, at the Ashland City Walmart and a local drugstore in Kingston Springs.

Collectively, Cheatham’s drug take back day total rang in at 228.2 pounds. The bulk of that came from Ashland City at 107. 2 pounds followed by Pleasant View at 61.4 and Kingston Springs at 59.2 pounds, according to figures Breedlove.

“First and foremost, it keeps them [prescription drugs] out of hands of people who aren’t prescribed them, whether it’s children or someone who... (is) addicted to drugs,” Breedlove said of the importance of disposing of unused medication.

Breedlove deemed it a “successful” take back day. “Each year it goes, it gets more successful because more people are aware of it.

“We were amazed at how much (prescription) fentanyl was turned in,” this year, he said.

Cheatham County began participating in national drug take back day since Breedlove took office in 2013. Though today there’s “more of an opioid epidemic than we were (at) in 2013...The number of overdoses and deaths, it’s just crazy.”

Tennessee Department of Health data show that there were 1,818 overdose deaths in Tennessee in 2018.

Sumner County had 42 drug overdose deaths in 2018, a rate of 24 per 100,000, according to state data. Robertson County had 14 overdose deaths in 2018, a rate of 20 per 100,000. Cheatham County had 23 drug overdose deaths in 2018, a rate of 58 per 100,000.

How to dispose of your medications year-round

Middle Tennesseans who missed the most recent drug take back day don’t have to wait until the next national event to properly dispose of unused or expired drugs.

Breedlove previously said prescribed medications — pills and capsules, no liquids — can be disposed of any time during normal business hours at the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office and at the Ashland City Police Department.

The Drug Drop Box at the Cheatham County Courthouse has collected a total of 236.8 pounds from March through October, according to stats from Breedlove.

After the Oct. 26 drug take back day, that made a “grand total” of 16 barrels weighing in at 465 pounds, which Breedlove called a “record” year.

Similarly, the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office has a disposal kiosk available 24 hours a day year-round, Pickard said.

The Sumner County Anti-Drug Coalition lists the sheriff’s office, among other locations around the county, to take unused or expired prescription medications, no questions asked:

❚ Sumner County Sheriff’s Office in Gallatin

❚ Westmoreland Police Department

❚ Portland Police Department

❚ Goodlettsville Police Department

❚ White House Police Department

❚ Hendersonville Police Department

❚ Walgreens at 198 E Main St in Hendersonville

❚ Perkins Drugs at 532 Hartsville Pike in Gallatin The DEA and the U.S. Department of Justice Diversion Control Division has an online collection site locator. People can use it to search the nearest disposal location by zip code or city within a 5-, 10-, 20- or 50-mile radius.

The Sumner County Anti-Drug Coalition states that in 2013, 53% of Sumner teens who admitted to using prescription medication to get high reported getting the drugs from home, a relative or a friend.

The coalition explains the “Count It! Lock It! Drop it!” plan to help combat the problem: Count pills every two weeks, lock and store them in a place hidden from others, and drop off unused or expired medications properly.

“For those that do take medications on a regular basis or are not able to dispose of them regularly, we encourage them to keep them stored in a locked drawer or cabinet,” Griffith noted. “If someone is in need of a medication lock box, they can contact the Coalition and we can provide them one free of charge.”

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