Permanent drug drop-off boxes have been unveiled throughout Hampshire and Franklin counties and Athol.
"One of the biggest crisis' in America for our youth now is opiate addiction," said Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan. "And, abusing prescription medication has become rampant. One in seven youth 12 and over have used prescription drugs to get high in the last year."
The new boxes, which are set up at 15 police stations throughout the district, are expected to bring in up to two tons of unused prescription drugs each year.
"The chance of a young person abusing drugs goes up by having them available," said Sullivan. "Seventy percent of the youth get these medications from their friends or family."
In years past the area has collected unwanted drugs on National Prescription Drug Day and has seen overwhelming results.
"We actually collected more in Hampshire and Franklin County than the entire state of Rhode Island and Vermont the last three drop offs," said Sullivan.
And, in addition to helping to prevent teens from abusing prescription drugs, the hope is that the boxes will help elders by allowing them to get rid of their unused drugs to avoid confusion and prevent theft as well.
"We often times see cases of theft of drugs and persons with disabilities by in-home health aides, their loved ones," said Chris Geffin the NWDA's coordinator for elders and persons with disabilities.
Putting drugs in the trash or down the toilet can have extremely negative environmental impacts. One of the added benefits of the boxes is to decrease the number of drugs that are improperly disposed of.
"These types of medications basically cause the bacteria that lives in the soils to become immune," said Charles Kaniecki, the state district health officer for Western Mass. "When you have higher immunity to bacteria then what happens is when we become ill our drugs that we are using have less of an effect on us."
And, by making these boxes permanent, the district is expecting to bring in one to two tons of drugs per year.
"Whether it's aspirin all the way up to oxycodone, we want to get every single prescription, non-prescription medicine that is no longer being used into these boxes," said Sullivan.
All drugs in pill form are accepted, though no liquids or needles are allowed in the box.
The drugs will be collected by the sheriff's departments from all the drop-off locations once a month and disposed of free of charge by Covanta Energy in Agawam.
Copyright 2013 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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