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Prescription drug overdose rates are rising; drug drop-off event looks to help

SPRINGVILLE — For the eighth time, the Drug Enforcement Administration is leading the effort to get prescription drugs out of the water supply and out of the hands of children. The National Prescription Drug Drop-Off Day is slated for April 26, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., giving local residentd the opportunity to properly dispose of their unused or expired medications.

According to the DEA, overdose is the leading cause of accidental death today, surpassing car accidents for the first time since records of overdose began being kept in 1979. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that, on average, 2,000 teenagers experiment with prescription drugs, without a doctor’s approval, per day. Between 2008 and 2012, teenagers who admitted to abusing or misusing prescription drugs increased by 33 percent, according to the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study.

“This is a huge epidemic, with kids thinking since it’s a prescription that it is OK to take,” said Kids Escaping Drugs representative Christina Kruzer. “That’s why it’s so important for people to dispose of them properly.”

Nick Manuszewski, an early interventionist with Kids Escaping Drugs, explained that ADHD medications are the highest abused drug by high school seniors, with opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, in a close second. The dependence on opioids can take as little as five days to begin and the physiological dependence is so strong teenagers can easily become addicted.

“It starts off as an experiment and then it grows into dependency,” Manuszewski said. “And it’s very likely [the teenagers] move into heroin, solely for financial reasons.”

The price of prescription drugs ranges from $50-$60 a pill, compared to a $10 bag of heroin, so teenagers will often choose the latter because it is cheaper, according to Manuszewski.

Which is why Manuszewski fully supports the prescription drug drop-off day. The amount of prescription medications that are collected, which reached more than 4 tons in October, are that many less that can end up on the streets or in the hands of teens looking to experiment.

Michelle Spahn, DEA resident agent in charge, said that each year there is an increase in the amount of prescriptions collected, partly due to a better understanding of the program and partly because people are looking to help out.

“I think the numbers have increased because people want to do their part,” Spahn said. “In October, Springville collected 242 pounds [of prescription drugs] which is significant for that size area.”

While the drop-off day happens twice a year, the Erie County Sheriff Department and the department of health know the importance of a year-round option for disposing of prescription drugs, which is why they created 12 permanent drop-off boxes throughout the county, including one in Springville, at the sheriff substation.

“All the boxes are used quite heavily,” said Erie County Deputy Scott Kuhlmey. “We empty them when they start getting full, which for Springville is every couple of weeks.”

The medications in those boxes are then transported to Orchard Park, where they’ll stay until the next drop-off day, Kuhlmey explained.

“I don’t know an exact total yet,” Kuhlmey said. “But there is approximately 3,000-4,000 pounds [of medication] from across the county.”

The permanent drop-off boxes are locked, but available to be used 24/7 and are completely anonymous.

“Those boxes help because it gives residents somewhere to drop their medications, throughout the year,” Spahn said.

Bertrand Chaffee Hospital in Springville will be accepting prescription drop-offs from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. on April 26. For more information, or to find a drop-off site near you, visit www.DEA.gov or www.Makeachangewny.org.


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