HEALTH

DEA to host semi-annual National Drug Take Back Day

Apr 18, 2023, 9:00 AM

a person holding pills is pictured, drug take back day happens this weekend...

University of Utah pharmacy student Reaghan Erickson, of Cedar Hills, holds discarded medication after it was dropped off during a South Salt Lake Drug Take Back event at the Rite Aid parking lot on Saturday, April 28, 2018, in South Salt Lake. (Jacob Wiegand/Deseret News)

(Jacob Wiegand/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The fight against opioid misuse continues on Saturday with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Take Back Day. This event is held twice a year, with many police departments, pharmacies and public health centers acting as collection sites across the state.

The Utah National Guard Drug Demand Reduction Outreach Program will participate in this event. The Utah National Guard supports various events throughout the year to help educate communities and prevent drug misuse.

Chad Wilkins with the National Guard’s outreach program said, “By providing the safe space…we are able to really work with those communities in getting those substances out of the environment, but also providing an opportunity for community members and youth to learn about the… importance of using them properly… and how to safely store and dispose of them.”

He said that the event is a no-questions-asked situation and that participants are encouraged to remove labels off prescription pill bottles or put any pills directly in a plastic bag in order to preserve anonymity.

Prescription drugs are not the only substances that will be accepted. Wilkins said that any used or expired medications, including over-the-counter medications, are welcome. Even vape pens are accepted as long as the batteries are removed. Needles will not be accepted.

Drug use in Utah

Utah saw rates of prescription drug misuse rise significantly between 2000-2015. In 2012, Utah ranked fourth in the nation for all overdoses and third in opioid overdoses.

In 2021, however, Utah fell down the ranks to 42nd in all overdoses and 40th in opioid overdoses. This data was provided by Megan Broekemeier, the drug overdose prevention research coordinator with the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office.

According to Broekemeier, “We should give ourselves a pat on the back” for the significant progress made in reducing opioid drug overdoses in Utah. “We’ve done a tremendous amount of work in that area so it’s nice to see progress being made on that front.”

While the majority of the country has seen year-over-year increases, especially during the pandemic, Utah has remained relatively flat.

Some of the gains Utah made in the opioid crisis are explained by the introduction of fentanyl. According to Broekemeier, there was a big jump in fentanyl overdose deaths in 2020.

“Fentanyl has kind of taken over and is just continuing to increase.” Preliminary data from 2022 states that 33% of overdoses involved one prescription opioid, but even more involved fentanyl.

Fentanyl is only one of the problematic drugs in Utah. Methamphetamine continues to be a widely abused drug in the state.

In preliminary data from 2022, 58% of overdoses involved meth. 

Broekemeier said that events, like Take Back Day, are important in the fight against opioid misuse because “the majority of people who are misusing prescription opioids are obtaining them from either a friend, acquaintance, or family member”.

Properly disposing of these drugs after the prescribed individual no longer needs them prevents the drugs from getting into the wrong hands and addiction from ever starting.

The semi-annual event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. To find the nearest collection site, and other details surrounding the event, go to dea.gov/takebackday.

Wilkins said there are also year-round drop-off locations.

Join a coalition

Wilkins suggested that anyone who is interested in helping make their community healthier and safer can find community coalitions on the Utah Prevention Coalition Association website. Local city websites will often have information about local coalitions as well.

These groups “work with schools and youth to implement education regarding substance use prevention, and mental and social health skills”.  2 Good 4 Drugs and Violence and Common Sense Parenting are two of many courses already established.

Members can also expect to be involved in events such as Take Back Day, Night Out Against Crime, Red Ribbon Week, and others around the community year-round.

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DEA to host semi-annual National Drug Take Back Day