Local residents who have unused or expired prescription drugs can now safely dispose of them at home.
Misuse of opioid-based drugs continues to impact communities across the country.
So far this year, there have been 13 overdose deaths in York County, eight of which were related to opioids, said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. Other deaths that are presumed to be overdoses are awaiting toxicology results. There were 550 drug overdose deaths involving opiates in South Carolina in 2016, a 7 percent increase from 2015 and an 18 percent increase from 2014, according to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
More than half of adolescents and young adults surveyed in 2016 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse said they bought or got the drugs from a friend or relative.
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On Monday, the Tega Cay Police Department announced a new way residents can clear their medicine cabinets of unused drugs.
The department has received DisposeRx, a solution that when mixed with water and used on prescription drugs, including the highly-addictive opioids, renders them inactive and turns them into a gel-like substance that is safe to throw in the trash and is safe for landfills, according to the AmerisourceBergen Foundation, the organization that provides the solution.
"The safe disposal of unused prescription medicines is a critical component in combating the issue because it really reduces the risk for misuse and diversion of medication," said Susan Lorenz-Fisher, senior director of corporate citizenship at AmerisourceBergen. "We know that unintended access to expired, unwanted or unused medicines remains the leading cause of opioid misuse."
Lorenz-Fisher said 40 percent of people over the past five years who misused prescription opioids got them from friends or relatives.
Residents can pick up DisposeRx packets at the Tega Cay Police Department on Tega Cay Drive, said Lt. Buddy Spence. Spence said it's available at no charge to anyone who comes in to request it.
The AmerisourceBergen Foundation, a not-for-profit that supports health-related causes, provides the solution for free to municipalities that apply for them. Since it launched the program in December 2017, AmerisourceBergen has provided drug disposal resources to more than 70 nonprofits and municipalities in 33 states.
The foundation, which was established by the pharmaceutical products provider AmerisourceBergen Corporation, has donated more than 15,000 of the resources to communities in the Carolinas, including in Blythewood and in Shelby, N.C.
The Tega Cay Police Department is the first in York County to receive it. The Rock Hill Police Department is in the process of applying, said Mark Bollinger, spokesperson for the department. No other local departments have yet announced a plan to provide drug deactivation resources.
"Our department, along with all law enforcement, is passionate about the opioid problem we are having," Spence said.
In January, York County community leaders, medical professionals and elected leaders discussed the rising problem of opioid misuse and drug abuse. Experts say misuse often stems from prescribed opioid-based pain medication.
John Emmel, MD, medical director of Charleston County’s Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, said in January that opioid addiction disorders the same area of the brain that communicates hunger and thirst and makes a person believe they need the drug to survive just as they need food and water. Most drugs people are addicted to are short-acting, causing their levels to constantly rise and drop, he said.
“That crazy up and down is what wreaks havoc on this part of the brain,” Emmel said. “The part of your brain begins to think ‘I need this to stay alive just as I need food to stay alive.’”
Under a take-back program for prescription drugs, York County has placed drop boxes in the region's police departments, said Marvin Brown, commander of the York County Multijurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit. Since 2009, millions of pills have been recovered.
Proper disposal is important so adolescents and others can't get prescription drugs from someone they know, Brown said. He said trends such as "Skittles parties," where people take a random assortment of pills and do not know what they are taking have been dangerous and can lead to future addictions.
"Part of our heroin epidemic is due to all the pills they were getting over that time frame," Brown said.
- Residents can pick up packets of DisposeRx at the Tega Cay Police Department, located at 7705 Tega Cay Dr.
- Through Operation Medicine Drop, supported by York County All on Board and area law enforcement offices, residents can also drop off their unused prescription drugs throughout the region. Drop boxes are located at York County police departments and the sheriff’s office.
- Municipalities can apply for drug deactivation resources on AmerisourceBergen's website.