Royal Oak readies for national Rx drug ‘take back' day

Apr 23, 2014 Issues: AntiDrug

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin joined Royal Oak police and other city officials Wednesday to promote the need to turn in old or unwanted prescription drugs.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the country are taking part in the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday.

The non-medical use of prescription drugs is the second-most common type of drug abuse in the U.S. behind marijuana, according to the DEA.

Drug take-back programs began nearly two decades ago as a way to keep the chemicals out of the environment and the hands of those who might abuse or be poisoned by them.

“Seventeen years ago when we started this, I don’t think there was a notion that prescription medications would be such a problem,” said Levin, a Democrat from Royal Oak. “But … that has changed and now one of the major sources of drug abuse relates to what is in our medicine cabinets.”

Expired or unneeded prescription drugs can be turned in at the Royal Oak Police Department, 221 E. Third St., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. A prescription drop-off box is also available at the police station year round.

Among those with Levin on Wednesday were Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison, Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue, city school Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin, Diane Dovico of the Royal Oak Community Coalition and City Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle.

Two-thirds of all drug overdoses in Royal Oak last year involved the use of prescription drugs, Mahrle said.

“Pharmaceutical drugs can be just as dangerous as street drugs,” Mahrle said.

Before the drug take-back program began in Royal Oak, hundreds of pounds of prescription drugs were disposed of improperly each year, said Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue.

With those medications being taken out of circulation, the take-back program has had an effect, he said.

With “those medications not being available, we’ll never know which 14-year-old kid didn’t have access to some medication he or she shouldn’t have had,” O’Donohue said.

The DEA estimates that a third of people over the age of 12 who used drugs for the first time began by using a prescription drug for a non-medical use, according to a study several years ago.

Last fall, people nationwide turned in more than 647,000 pounds of prescription drugs at more than 4,000 sites operated by the DEA.

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