One in six children have abused prescription medications, according to the Overdose Prevention and Education Network (OPEN), a local multi-city collaborative headed by the Cambridge Public Health Department.
Most often, they’re getting those pills from their friends and family, but without their knowledge, OPEN reports. That’s part of why the organization is working with the Cambridge Police Department to join other cities participating in a Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday.
"National Take-Back Day is a great time to get rid of those old medications cluttering up your medicine cabinet, protect your kids from accidental poisoning or addiction and do something good for the environment at the same time," said Tali Schiller, substance abuse prevention coordinator for the Cambridge Public Health Department and coordinator of OPEN.
The initiative occurs nationwide Saturday as a way to provide a “safe, convenient and responsible” way to dispose of prescription drugs while also raising awareness about the potential abuse of medications, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Diversion Control Division.
“Residents can drop off their unused or unwanted prescriptions throughout the year (at the Cambridge Police Station), but the Drug Take-Back Day helps generate broader awareness about this service offered to residents,” Cambridge police spokesman Jeremy Warnick said.
Officials ask that residents go through their medicine cabinets and drop off expired or unwanted prescription drugs at any collection site, including sites like the police department at 125 Sixth Street and Brigham and Women’s Outpatient Pharmacy which has take-back kiosks in Boston and Chestnut Hill.
Collection sites exist for a reason, officials say. They don’t want you flushing those pills down the toilet.
“It’s easy to say ‘Just flush medicine,’ but it turns out, for some medications, we can measure the amount of that medicine in our water,” said Dr. Lori Tishler, medical director for the Jen Center for Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Especially when we’re talking about opioids or benzodiazepines [like Xanax, Valium, Klonopin], drugs that are either addictive or harmful to the people who aren’t taking it, it’s better to dispose of them properly.”
Tishler noted that the drug take-back initiative is especially important considering the current opioid epidemic affecting the entire country.
“In the past, many doctors were prescribing more pills than patients truly needed, so people have so many of these medicines in their cabinet,” she said. “We’re thinking so much more about how we prescribe opioids and how we can do it safely and appropriately.”
If you’re hesitant to donate unused pills because you’re worried about needing pain medication in the future, Tishler said that it’s better to start fresh. If you are in that much pain, you probably need to see a doctor anyway, she said.
A full list of collection sites can be seen on the DEA’s website.