New Mexico gears up for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

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Residents throughout New Mexico are invited to participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, an initiative designed to reduce prescription drug-related deaths by collecting unused medications, set for Saturday (April 29).

Betsy McCullough, assistant to the police chief at Taos Police Department, said that Taos residents are encouraged to drop off dry, non-sharp prescription drugs at a secure collection point at Walgreens, located at 811 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, for Saturday’s initiative. Another year-round drop-off point is available Monday through Friday in the police department’s main lobby, 400 Camino de la Placita.

Other Taos County locations will include the Taos Pueblo Department of Public Safety, at 205 Rio Lucero Road, and the Questa Police Department, located at 2500 State Road 522.

The drug take-back program is an initiative of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which works with state law enforcement agencies to designate safe and anonymous drop-off points for the disposal of “unused, unwanted or expired medications,” according to a press release from Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth M. Martinez.

Last year, the DEA partnered with 50 New Mexico law enforcement agencies to collect nearly 4,400 pounds – or a little more than 2 tons – of medications at 79 collection sites set up throughout the state.

Studies have shown that many new addictions begin when family members or friends knowingly or unknowingly make prescription drugs accessible to those around them who may underestimate the addictive and potentially lethal effects of the medications when abused.

The initiative is based on the theory that with fewer of those drugs sitting in drawers or medicine cabinets, the number of new addictions and incidences of overdose will be reduced.

Another partner for the program is the HOPE Initiative, which was launched in January 2015 by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to combat the national opioid epidemic, which claims about 33,000 lives in the United States each year.

Here in New Mexico, overdoses from prescription medications consistently exceed national averages.

In fact, for the past several years, New Mexico has been named among the top three states with the highest number of drug poisoning deaths annually, with an average of about 27.3 deaths per 100,000 residents. Taos County and its Northern New Mexico neighbors record the highest rates in the state, with around 67.7 deaths per 100,000 people – more than double the national average.

“Overdose is a leading cause of death and injury in Taos County,” said Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe, who added that loose medications can also fuel crime. “Overdoses are quite often from prescription medications that are stolen and almost always illegally obtained.”

Hogrefe said, “The prescription drug/medication take-back will assure that your expired or unused medications will [be] disposed of properly. Don’t run the risk of medications falling into the wrong hands. Take advantage of this free program at any of the drop-off sites, no questions asked.”

New Mexico residents may visit the DEA website at bit.ly/2oSxX9y and enter their ZIP code to find additional drop-off points in or near their area.

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