ALBUQUERQUE – The U.S. Attorney’s Office and UNM’s Health and Sciences Center are encouraging the public to participate in DEA’s 13th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, April 29, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 pm as part of the prevention and education component of the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative.
To raise public awareness about the nationwide event on April 29, 2017, the HOPE Initiative Partners and DEA are collaborating with the City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC) in hosting a promotional Drug Take-Back event on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., during “Truckin’ Tuesday” in Civic Plaza. This promotional event will provide City and County employees and others who work in the downtown Albuquerque area with a safe, convenient and responsible way of disposing of unused, unwanted or expired medications.
During the last National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in October 2016, Americans turned in 731, 269 pounds – almost 366 tons – of prescription drugs at almost 5,200 sites staffed by DEA and more than 4,000 of its state, local and tribal law enforcement partners. Here in New Mexico, DEA and 50 law enforcement partners collected almost 4,400 pounds of medication at 79 collection sites throughout the state. Overall, in its 12 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 7.1 million pounds – more than 3,500 tons – of pills.
“Many individuals are lured into believing that taking a prescription pill is a safe way to get high. But many prescription drugs are highly addictive and just as dangerous as any street drug, and just as deadly,” said Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of DEA’s El Paso Division. “The death toll from prescription painkillers has tripled in the last decade, and the problem is getting worst. More people die each year from prescription painkiller overdoses than from heroin, cocaine or any other illegal drug. Proper disposal of your unwanted prescription drugs is a simple way to help prevent overdose deaths.”
“Teens and young adults are especially vulnerable because they begin abusing prescription drugs and turn to heroin for a cheaper high,” said Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney. “Every day, 2,500 teens take a prescription drug to get high for the first time, and 65% of teens get their drugs from a medicine cabinet at home or from a friend or relative. Too many kids are dying young. Protect our kids by properly disposing of your unused, unwanted and expired medicine.”
“The UNM Health Sciences Center enthusiastically supports National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and thanks the Drug Enforcement Administration for its leadership in this important initiative,” said Dr. Paul B. Roth, Chancellor of UNM Health Sciences Center. “UNM Hospital and the UNM Police Department will do their part on April 29th by hosting a drive-thru take-back site in the shuttle lanes at UNMH, 2211 Lomas Blvd NW. We encourage community members to take this opportunity to dispose of unused prescription drugs to protect themselves, their families and our community.”
Unused medicines in the home are a problem because the majority of the 6.4 million Americans who abused prescription drugs in 2015, including almost 4 million who abused prescription painkillers, say they obtained those drugs from friends and family, including from a home medicine cabinet, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health released last month. Some painkiller abusers move on to heroin: four out of five new heroin users started with painkillers. Almost 30,000 people – 78 a day – died from overdosing on these painkillers or heroin in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Unused, unsecured prescription drugs, particularly opiates and benzodiazepines, can be stolen and diverted for illegal sale. This is not good for law enforcement and not good for our communities as we work to stem the tide of addictions,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. “Local governments are very grateful to DEA for their "take-back" initiative and other efforts to keep these illegal drugs off our streets.”
“Having unused medicines in your house is unsafe and dangerous as you never know who might get their hands on them,” said HAC Executive Director Jennifer Weiss-Burke. “There's no reason to hang on to leftover medicines, so take advantage of this opportunity to spring clean your medicine cabinet!”
Members of the public can find a nearby Prescription Drug Take-Back collection site by visiting www.dea.gov, clicking on the “Got Drugs?” icon, and entering their zip code into the search window, or they can call 800-882-9539. Only pills and other solids, like patches, will be accepted at DEA Drug Take Back collection sites – the public should not bring liquids, needles or other sharp items to take back sites. This service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.
The HOPE Initiative was launched in January 2015 by the UNM Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to the national opioid epidemic, which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on New Mexico. Opioid addiction has taken a toll on public safety, public health and the economic viability of our communities. Working in partnership with the DEA, the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative, Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC), the Albuquerque Public Schools and other community stakeholders, HOPE’s principal goals are to protect our communities from the dangers associated with heroin and opioid painkillers and reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in New Mexico. The HOPE Initiative is comprised of five components: (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning. Learn more about the New Mexico HOPE Initiative at http://www.HopeInitiativeNM.org.