standing JUUL vapes

AP file photo

When police throughout the region open their stations to the public Saturday to participate for the fall National Drug Take Back Day, people will be able to get rid of unused prescription medicines taking up cabinet space.

For the first time, residents looking to get rid of unwanted vaping devices and cartridges will also be able to discard them as part of the event. The acceptance of these items is being done to address concerns raised across the country over illnesses and death caused by vaping, as well as in an effort to reduce the high rate of youth vaping.

"In an effort to support a healthy lifestyle and energetic population, especially among America’s youth, the DEA is committed to doing all it can to help safely dispose of vaping devices and substances," said Brian D. Boyle, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which organizes the national effort.

He noted that the DEA cannot accept devices containing lithium ion batteries and said if batteries cannot be removed prior to drop-off, individuals are encouraged to consult stores that recycle the batteries.

National Drug Take Back Day, which is held twice per year, has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, gaining participants across the U.S. The event on Saturday, which will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will be the 17th collection through the program in the past decade and includes 594 collection sites throughout New England, operated by local law enforcement agencies and other community partners.

The Westerly, Stonington, Richmond, Hopkinton and Charlestown police departments have been regular participants in recent years, along with the Connecticut and Rhode Island State Police. The disposal service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

"We participate because we believe it makes the community safer," Richmond Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson Jr. said in an interview after the April event. "Many people in recovery began their battle with addiction because of easy access to unsecured pills or prescriptions belonging to a friend or family member. By removing unneeded meds from the community, including potent opioids, the community is joining us in helping to prevent many 'first-time' users from access to something that they don’t need and may forever regret."

During an April collection, the DEA reported that a total of 4,465 pounds of medications were accepted and disposed of in Rhode Island. They included everything from basic vitamins to fentanyl patches and end-of-life painkillers, according to local police.

In Connecticut, 8,361 pounds of medications were disposed of. The DEA said a total of 89,366 pounds were collected throughout New England during the April collection.

"The DEA’s prescription drug take back is an important yet simple step we all can take to ensure that unwanted or unused medications are safely disposed of to prevent them from falling into the hands of individuals who should not have access to them,” said Aaron L. Weisman, U.S. attorney for the District of Rhode Island.

Officers will be on hand at the local police stations to help expedite the process. Pills and other solid forms of medication will be accepted. The departments are not equipped to take back or handle syringes or liquid medications.

People wishing to dispose of liquids are asked to contact pharmacies to see whether they would accept them, or to talk with a doctor about proper disposal.

For more on the collection, including a full list of participating locations, visit https://takebackday.dea.gov.

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