Across the U.S. every year, National Prescription Drug Take Back Day lands in cities and towns with the goal of providing a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.
Sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Diversion Control Division, Drug Take Back Day is set for this month, April 27, from 10am-2pm—likely in your town or one near you. The best way to find out is to call your local town hall and see if and where one is taking place.
In Shepherdstown, it happens every year within the lobby/foyer of Town Hall (104 N. King St.), where folks are encouraged to bring their leftover prescription drugs and drop them off into a green mail-box-looking container. But this year, one local group is looking to enhance this effort.
Jan Hafer, a member of Shepherdstown’s Trinity Episcopal Church and its recently developed addiction awareness group, has organized a team of folks with the goal of making Drug Take Back Day more educational, more accessible, and ultimately, more impactful.
“For starters, we’re hoping the Town Council will let us move it from the hallway (where the drop box is) into the chamber so we have more room,” she explained. “We’ll also have a wealth of literature on hand, as well as some medical professionals there to talk with folks if they want to know more about addiction or related information.”
If it works out, Hafer and the group are also thinking to have a speaker present—who might address attendees outside of Town Hall. “We’re looking to enhance this program,” she added. “Instead of just showing up, dropping your drugs off, and leaving, we want to provide a more comprehensive experience so folks can learn more if they need or want to.”
Through the Front Door
Many problems associated with drug abuse are the result of legitimately made controlled substances being diverted from their lawful purpose. “One of the problems with addiction is that people often have pills left over after surgeries or what not, and young people come along and take their parents’ or grandparents’ pills,” said Hafer. “It’s very common; this initiative by the DEA is a way to keep people safe by taking these extra drugs out of the house.”
To that end, just throwing them away isn’t always the answer. “Millions of people across the country have these leftover prescription drugs,” Hafer noted. “You don’t want to just throw them away, because they’re also a serious environmental hazard. And there’s a tendency for drug addicts to dig through the trash of people they know are sick or who recently had surgery.”
Another way that Hafer’s group has impacted the local addiction-awareness movement is literally through the front door of Trinity Episcopal Church (200 W. German St., Shepherdstown).
“Last year, we had a vigil and information fair at the church; we want to build on that this year and continue to evolve the group,” she indicated. “Something unique to Trinity is that when you walk through the front doors—where it says ‘open for prayers’—we have a collection of literature—a rack right inside the door on the wall. That literature disappears pretty quick—we have to keep replacing it. You can see that it’s moving. We’re meeting someone’s needs.”
Inevitably, education is the key to prevention, Hafer emphasized. “I recently attended an education forum and one of the counselors stood up and said that ninety-nine percent of the kids she works with start with pills they take from the medicine cabinet. We have to continue to work hard to prevent this and cultivate awareness.”