When officers collected unused and unwanted prescriptions on Saturday as part of the biannual National Drug Take Back Day, they expected to receive a mix of everything from vitamins to end-of-life painkillers. They weren’t disappointed.
Police in Westerly, Stonington, Richmond, Hopkinton and Charlestown combined to collect and dispose of 375 pounds of medication. The medications included everything from basic vitamins to extremely potent medicines, including fentanyl and “end-of life painkillers,” used for those in hospice care or with serious chronic medical conditions.
“We saw everything from a pair of unused prescription eyeglasses to fentanyl patches belonging to an individual that recently passed away in hospice that were turned over by a relative,” said Hopkinton Police capt. Mark Carrier. “Turning over these ‘comfort medicines’ is a critical component to combating abuse, and can help prevent an unnecessary tragedy from those who take them recreationally, or those in the home who may take them thinking they are a different medication.”
Hopkinton police, led by Detective John Forbes, collected 40 pounds of medication, while Richmond officers filled four boxes and turned over approximately 85 pounds of medication for disposal, Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson said, including numerous fentanyl patches turned over to the agency.
“Fentanyl is highly addictive but it is even more deadly because it is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine,” explained Johnson. “As little as 0.25 milligrams can be fatal.”
Forbes collected the take-back items for both departments and they were turned over to, and disposed of by, the Drug Enforcement Administration officials in Rhode Island immediately following Saturday’s collection.
In Westerly, Police Chief Shawn Lacey said regular drops have become more common than single-day participation in the event. He said the turnout was still strong, however, with the agency turning over 126.5 pounds of medication in all. On the Connecticut side of the Pawcatuck River, Stonington police also saw a lighter turnout as a result of more everyday use of the drop box, but said the department was still able to turn 124 pounds of recently turned-in medications to the DEA.
Charlestown police also participated in National Drug Take Back Day, although final figures were not available as of Monday evening.
Johnson said he was thankful for those who turned over medications, especially those with fentanyl patches, and encouraged others who may have unnecessary medications to do the same thing. All five departments have a drop box available in their lobby 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for residents to dispose of these medications.
Those who would need to turn over something like a fentanyl patch are asked to try and give departments a heads-up if possible to help reduce the risk of exposure, both to officers and the individual getting rid of the medication.
“The fentanyl patches that are unused and have intact packaging are safe to drop off, but people should alert police immediately if they find or come across fentanyl in any form that could pose a risk of accidental exposure to anyone handling it, such as powders, or torn/broken packaging,” Johnson said. “Police would exercise precautions and bring in resources to collect it on site to avoid the caller or police from risk of accidental exposure from handling it.”