CLEVELAND, Ohio – Police departments throughout Northeast Ohio collected unused and old prescription drugs Saturday for the 15th annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
“You want to get rid of them, they are in your cabinet but you don’t know how. You don’t want to throw them down the toilet. You don’t want to put them in the garbage, so when these opportunities come up you take advantage,” said Debbie Rada who stopped into the Lakewood Police Department to drop off a large bag of pills.
Disposing of old prescriptions, especially unused opiates, properly is part of the nation-wide response to the growing opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, most heroin addicts report starting their drug addiction by misusing their own, or someone else’s, prescription drugs.
“The opiates are being abused at record levels and of course our deaths are at record levels, so this is just another piece, another way that law enforcement can engage with the citizens so they don’t get into the wrong hands,” said Special Agent in Charge with the Westshore Enforcement Bureau, Jeff Capretto.
Capretto says he and his team, which works in the six major westside suburbs, are extremely busy.
“We’re always pursuing the trafficker. That’s who we pursue, the trafficker more than the possessor,” Capretto said.
Ohio has long been known to struggle particularly hard with opioids in the last several years. According to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2016, 4,050 people died from drug overdoses, that number is up 32% from 2015.
The department of health also says that of all overdose deaths in Ohio in 2016, 20% of those people had an opioid prescription in the previous 30 days.
Drug take-back programs are not particularly new, but they are becoming more common. Almost every local police department now has a prescription drop off box in their lobby and it is typically available 24/7.