More than 10 local law enforcement agencies and prevention advocates from Next Step Community Solutions’ coalitions are gearing up for the semi-annual DEA Take Back event to be held Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at various locations around East Texas.
“This event is a great way to not only encourage residents to dispose of their leftover prescription drugs, but to educate the community about how disposing prevents future substance abuse,” said Joseph Byrum, director of prevention programs at Next Step Community Solutions. “Together with law enforcement, we have collected more than 4,000 pounds in the last few years. That’s over one million pills that won’t end up in the wrong hands in our communities.”
The Tyler Police Department event will be held in the parking lot at Brookshire’s on Rice Road, while the UT Tyler Police will host another at the UT Health Science Center on 271. Other events will also be held at Walmart in Kilgore, Walgreens in Marshall, First National Bank in Jefferson, and Brookshire’s in Pittsburg, with still others promoting their prescription drug disposal boxes that are available year-round. For a list of locations, visit easttexasrx.com.
Residents are encouraged to bring their unused or expired prescription drugs (other than needles or aerosols) to one of these events, because properly disposing of medications not only save lives, but also protects the environment. If unused prescription drugs are thrown in the trash, they can be retrieved and illegally sold or abused. If they’re flushed, they can contaminate the water supply. The DEA recommends take-back programs as the best way to dispose of old drugs.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than half of those over age 12 who abuse prescription drugs said they got them from friends and family, sometimes taking them from an unattended medicine cabinet.
“Each year over 2 million prescriptions are written and filled in East Texas. That averages to nearly 2 prescriptions for every single East Texan. (RNA 2021),” said Mindy Robertson, data coordinator for Region 4 Prevention Resource Center for the East Texas Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (ETCADA). “Two-thirds of teens who misused pain relievers in the past year say that they got them from family, friends, and their medicine cabinets. Teens have reported that prescription medicines are free and easy to find in parents’ and especially grandparents’ medicine cabinets. (NIDA 2021).”
Abuse of prescription drugs in this region dropped more than 30% from 2016 to 2018, and another 30% from 2018 to 2020, according to the Texas School Survey, an anonymous Texas A&M survey of 7-12th grade students across the state of Texas.