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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Vermonters Turn In Unwanted Prescriptions

Toby Talbot
Organizers say drug take back events are an important part of Vermont’s battle against opioid abuse.";

This weekend, communities across Vermont participated in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's prescription drug take-back day.

Organizers say these annual events are an important part of Vermont’s battle against opioid abuse. In Burlington, drug take-back day was well-attended.

At the Burlington Police Department, authorities were on hand to receive unused and unwanted prescription drugs to be destroyed after collection. The effort is designed to protect against medications from being stolen, abused or accidentally ingested.

Daniel Mulligan is with the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community. It’s a non-profit substance abuse prevention organization. The organization worked with local police and the DEA to promote the take back event.

Mulligan says the initiative is especially important here in Vermont.

“The prescription drug and opioid issue is a big one,” said Mulligan. “The more we can do to get these dangerous drugs off the streets, or out of risky situations, the better.”

The event was underscored by what Gov. Peter Shumlin calls a growing epidemic of opioid addiction.

Earlier this month, Shumlin announced an emergency order that would make it harder for doctors to prescribe Zohydro, a powerful painkiller that contains up to five times the amount of the narcotic hydrocodone as in pills currently prescribed.

And area hospitals, including Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, said they would not stock the new drug.

Mulligan says having any prescription narcotic in the home can create a risk factor.

"It's important to protect their right to be anonymous." -Daniel Mulligan, Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community

“So if we can step in and make sure those drugs are not in those risky situations, bring them into a law enforcement station, get them disposed, we can take big steps to prevent abuse and addiction down the road,” said Mulligan.

And how you dispose of the drug is key. It’s important not to flush medications, to ensure that drugs don't contaminate the water supply. It’s also the law that an unwanted prescription must be turned in to law enforcement.

In addition to official drug take back days, a number of police agencies in Vermont will accept unwanted medications throughout the year, no questions asked.

Several of those returning prescriptions in Burlington simply walked in and out without giving any information about themselves or their prescriptions.

And Mulligan says that’s important:

“I think for people who are making the right decision about correctly disposing of their prescription drugs, it’s so important to protect their right to be anonymous,” said Mulligan.

Vermonters who still have unwanted prescriptions are urged to contact their local law enforcement offices for details about take back resources.

Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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