Dozens of Danville residents brought unwanted, unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter drugs to the Town of Danville’s offices Saturday for safe and anonymous disposal, as part of a national “Drug Take Back Day,” sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
By 1 p.m. around 60 pounds of drugs had been collected, and more residents were steadily arriving to add their medicines to the several “burn bins” set-up to receive them.
The event marks the DEA’s third such take back effort, and the second time the Danville police department has participated.
The event began in 2010 to address the growing national problem of prescription drug abuse, now estimated at over 7 million Americans.
Most would be shocked to learn that they could be a drug dealer and not even realize it.
That is because often the means by which a loved one begins to abuse prescription drugs originates in their very own, or a friend’s, medicine cabinet.
When people think about drug abuse, they commonly think about illegal street drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.
Statistics show, however, that 300 percent more Americans die from prescription drugs each year than all types of illegal drugs combined, according to the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, based in San Ramon.
Also, prescription drug abuse is second only to marijuana abuse nationally.
On Saturday, Jim Hansen, the coalition’s co-founder was at the Danville take back effort.
Hansen established the coalition in 2010, along with his mother, April Rovero, with the mission of educating people about the dangers of prescription drug misuse and abuse.
It is a subject about which they have painful personal knowledge.
In December 2009, Hansen’s brother, Joey Rovero, accidentally died from a lethal combination of alcohol and misused medication prescribed to him by a doctor nine days before he died.
Joey Rovero, a 2006 graduate of California High School, had only been using the medication for two weeks.
Hansen and Rovero, and the coalition's all-volunteer staff, work closely with the DEA at events like the take back days. They also visit schools, organize speaking events, and help people mobilize in communities and college campuses across the country to fight prescription drug abuse.
Prescription drug abuse is such a growing problem because people often underestimate the power and addictive nature of the drugs prescribed by their doctors, and misuse them, said Hansen.
Many incorrectly assume that they are safer than street drugs because a doctor prescribes them. They don’t understand that many of the most commonly prescribed drugs actually alter the brain, causing very swift addiction, and making recovery a very difficult and costly challenge.
They also may knowingly or unknowingly share them with family members or friends.
Each day, approximately, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America, says the GotDrugs? initiative spearheaded by the United States Department of Justice and the DEA which organizes the take back events.
According to the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, one-third of all new abusers of prescription drugs in 2006 were between the ages of 12 and 17 years old, and most obtained them from a family member or friend.
Restricting access by removing unnecessary drugs safely from the home is an important way people can help combat the problem, and slow its epidemic growth.
At Saturday’s event, Danny, a Danville resident, said he was bringing “stuff I needed to get rid of.” “It’s nice to have a place to take it,” he said, noting that he was concerned about drugs getting flushed down the toilet or thrown in the garbage, which is harmful to the environment.
After the successful first take back event in 2010 when hundreds of thousands of pounds of drugs were collected, Congress amended the Controlled Substances Act to allow the DEA to develop an ongoing safe disposal process.
As a result, in addition to the national take back events held every six-months, there are disposal locations nationwide that accept the drugs on an ongoing basis.
People who missed Saturday’s event can visit the Danville police department Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and dispose of prescription and over-the-counter medications (including inhalers), with the exception of “sharps,” such as syringes and Epi-pens. Sharps can be taken to local fire departments for safe disposal.
People are taking advantage of the program, said police department personnel on hand at the event. Typically they dispose of a full container bin each week, they said.
To protect personal information, all medications with identifying information should be removed from their packaging and placed in unmarked Ziploc bags, including liquid medications. No identification is required, and no questions are asked.
To learn more about prescription drug abuse and what you can do to prevent it, visit the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse website at http://ncapda.org/. The coalition is also always looking for volunteers to work with them as well.
To find other locations to dispose of medications in Contra Costa County, visit the Allied Waste website.