The Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth is pleased to announce the installation of the first permanent medication drug drop box in Riverhead, located in the lobby of the Riverhead Police Department at 210 Howell Avenue. Residents will now be able safely and conveniently dispose of unused or unwanted medications that could otherwise end up in the hands of teens, addicts and criminals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States especially among teens; more people die from prescription drug overdoses than from all illegal drugs combined. In fact, prescription drug deaths are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., outnumbering highway traffic fatalities.
In the past, residents were only able to drop off unused medications during the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) semi-annual National Take Back Events. During the last DEA event in April, the Riverhead Police Department and Peconic Bay Medical Center took in over 200 pounds of drugs combined.
“We have participated in the DEA Drug Take Back Day since its inception,” said Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller. “We have seen a steady increase in the community’s participation in this vital program that helps to reduce drug abuse by eliminating one of the key elements. It is great to finally have our own Drug Drop Off box and it is great that it is now available to the community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at police headquarters.”
According to a 2013 survey conducted by Riverhead Community Awareness Program, Inc. (CAP), over half of Riverhead respondents (54%) said they had expired, unused or unwanted medications in their homes and only 10% said they disposed of them at the DEA’s Take Back Events. Ninety-two percent (92%) said they would use a drug disposal box in the community if it was available anytime.
The next DEA Take Back Event is scheduled for Saturday, September 27th and residents may also take their unwanted and unused medications to Peconic Bay Medical Center from 10-2. However, this is likely to be the last event as the DEA announced new regulations on September 8th that will expand opportunities for permanent drop off locations in communities through pharmacies and mail-in programs. The new regulations will go into effect on October 9th.
“These new regulations will allow us to utilize grant money to place some additional drop boxes throughout Riverhead to further decrease the availability and accessibility of these drugs,” said Felicia Scocozza, Executive Director of Riverhead CAP. In 2013, CAP was awarded a five-year Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on behalf of the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth. According to Scocozza, one of the priorities of the grant was to decrease non-medical use of prescription drugs by youth, a growing problem on Long Island with a direct link to youth heroin use.
According to the CDC, one in five teens have taken prescription drugs without a doctor's prescription and each day more than 2,000 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time. Teens now abuse prescription drugs more than cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine combined. This may be because they don’t see this behavior as risky since medicine is created and tested in a scientific environment, prescribed by doctors, and used by their parents. In most cases prescription medication is easier to obtain than street drugs; the majority of teens get them from family members, friends, or in the home. Teens that become addicted to prescription drugs are likely to turn to heroin which is much cheaper to buy on the street.
October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month and the Riverhead coalition has partnered with local pharmacies to distribute information cards with all prescriptions. The cards describe four steps to help prevent prescription drug abuse and addiction: monitor, do not share, store safely, and dispose properly. So far, Martin Drugs and Wal-Mart pharmacy have agreed to distribute the cards to its customers. The coalition is providing the cards along with additional signage to any pharmacies that would like to participate.
The Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth includes representatives from Riverhead Community Awareness Program (CAP), Riverhead Central School District, Riverhead Town and Police Department, Southampton Youth Bureau, the First Baptist and United Methodist Churches of Riverhead, Peconic Bay Medical Center, Eastern Suffolk BOCES, Suffolk Community College, the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, Suffolk County National Bank, Rotary, Kiwanis, parents and students. Its mission is to engage collaborative partners in the planning, implementation and evaluation of strategies that prevent youth substance use.