Help Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse in Tennessee

Wednesday, April 06, 2016 | 1:22pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, in association with the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Office of Diversion Control is encouraging all Tennesseans to do their part to reduce the risk of prescription drug abuse.

On Saturday, April 30, in communities across the state, Tennesseans have the opportunity to take part in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day which aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs from homes and offices.

“This is a chance for everyone to contribute, and become part of the solution to our state’s prescription drug abuse epidemic that has hurt so many of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “Every person in our state has been touched by this epidemic, in one form or another. We have lost too many to this disease of addiction. If you have unused medications, do your part and join in Take-Back Day. Ask others to do the same.”

In 2015, the Tennessee Department of Health released some very sobering statistics on the impact of substance use in Tennessee revealing: The number of Tennesseans who die each year due to drug overdoses increased again in 2014. The total number of overdose deaths rose by nearly 100, from 1,166 in 2013 to a record-setting 1,263 in 2014. If those numbers are hard to comprehend, consider this:  more people died from drug overdoses in Tennessee last year than were killed in motor vehicle accidents.

Click HERE for a list of confirmed drug overdose deaths in 2014

“For most of this decade we have witnessed the fall-out from prescription drug abuse,” said Commissioner Varney. “In addition to unintended deaths and overdoses, as access to prescription pain medications has become more difficult, many people are feeding their addiction by others means, switching to heroin and other drugs. They’re putting themselves and their loved ones at great risk.”

“Once again this year we are pleased to be partnering with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), which provides the drop-off boxes,” said Commissioner Varney. “And what’s especially helpful is the online interactive map TDEC has created, which pinpoints the exact location of every drop-box in Tennessee, accessible to everyone.”

TDEC began the Pharmaceutical Take-Back initiative as a pilot program with the City of Knoxville in 2011. Today the project has a total of 155 Take-Back Box locations in 85 counties. In partnership with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Department of Homeland Security, Health, Mental Health and Substance Abuse and local law enforcement agencies, the collection program offers a safe and easy way to dispose of unwanted medication, and creates opportunities for Tennesseans to promote environmental protection and safer communities.

Click HERE to find the nearest Prescription Drug Take-Back Box location.

“In addition to being a health hazard, throwing medication away with household garbage or flushing it is harmful to our environment,” said Lori Munkeboe, director of the TDEC’s Office of Sustainable Practices. “We hope National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will create awareness of the viable disposal options across the state to keep drugs out of our water and off the streets.”

With that in mind, participating in Drug Take-Back Day becomes an opportunity for all Tennesseans to fight back, to keep our bodies and environment free of harmful substances and to become part of the solution, rather than contributing to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

The response to the September 2015 Take-Back event resulted in more than 350 tons (the equivalent of more than 702,000 pounds) of prescription drugs collected nationwide at more than 5,000 sites operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and another 3,800 locations managed by state and local authorities.

“This is a terrific partnership with law enforcement. It’s free, anonymous and no questions asked,” said Commissioner Varney. “We need to do all we can to encourage people to participate, as the rate of prescription drug abuse in Tennessee keeps rising, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses.”

Take These Steps to Remove Prescription Drugs From Your Home or Office

  • Check for unused prescriptions in medicine cabinets, bathroom, closets, bedside tables and kitchen drawers, under the sink, and in closets, purses, handbags, and containers.
  • Remove all labeling and packaging on bottles and containers before disposing to ensure the protection of your privacy and personal information.

Keep in mind: the majority of Tennessee’s Take-Back Boxes are in locations that are accessible seven days a week, 24 hours a day. While there is special focus on take-back events each year in April and October, most boxes are located in law enforcement buildings and offices, where they are available for safe disposal anytime you need them.

“It is so important to properly discard unused prescription medications from your home to ensure they are not obtained, misused, or abused by family and friends,” said Commissioner Varney. “By joining in Drug Take-Back Day, you will be taking the best approach in removing unused, unwanted, or expired prescription drugs.”

“Every pill that’s not properly disposed of is a chance it will result in an unintended overdose or death or addiction,” said Commissioner Varney. “I urge all Tennesseans to take part in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, so these unused drugs don’t harm those we love and care for the most.”

If you or someone you care for is in need of substance use treatment, call the Tennessee REDLINE anytime at 1-800-889-9789 for help now. Resources are available across the state.

Environment & Conservation |Governor Haslam |Health |Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services |Tennessee Bureau of Investigation