By Kal Weinstein
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — Attorney General Mark Herring is urging Virginians to participate in Saturday’s nationwide effort to safely dispose of unused or expired medications.
On National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, law enforcement agencies, community partners and members of the attorney general’s office will be at dozens of locations throughout the state — including three in Richmond — to accept medications for proper disposal.
Herring identified prescription opioids, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, as having the highest likelihood of being abused if not disposed of properly.
“Far too often, opioid addiction starts at the home when unused prescription drugs that have been left around the house fall into the hands of someone who could misuse or abuse them,” Herring said in a press release.
Herring said disposing of unneeded prescription drugs on Saturday is a simple step people can take to address Virginia’s “devastating” opioid epidemic.
“One of the easiest ways to prevent abuse is to dispose of these drugs safely,” Herring said, calling the unused prescriptions “potentially dangerous.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is a strong link between misuse of prescription opioids and opioid addiction, followed potentially by heroin use once prescription drugs become too expensive or difficult to obtain. NIDA also reports that opioid overdose deaths have rapidly risen in Virginia.
In 2016, there were 1,130 opioid-related overdose deaths in Virginia — a rate of 13.5 deaths per 100,000 persons, the report said. The state’s opioid death rate was slightly above the national average.
According to the same report, Virginia providers wrote about 5.6 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers in 2015. That represents 70 prescriptions per 100 residents, similar to the national average.
Herring has made fighting the opioid epidemic a priority, combating the problem with a strategy that includes enforcement, education, prevention and legislation.
Last year, Herring filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for “lies that helped create and prolong (the) opioid crisis.”
This Saturday, locations across the commonwealth will be open for drug disposal from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can find a site near you by entering your location at www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov.