RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Attorney General Mark Herring announced Tuesday that as part of the heroin and prescription opioid crisis, he has secured the donation of 80,000 drug deactivation kits capable of safely disposing of 3.6 million leftover prescription pills in Virginia.
“The thing that really breaks my heart is talking with a parent who lost a child to an addiction that began with pills and ended with a fatal overdose,” said Herring.
The biodegradable Deterra drug disposal kits from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals can deactivate and destroy up to 45 pills each with the addition of warm tap water before being disposed of in the trash, according to Herring.
Something as simple as a sports injury, dental work, or a surgery can expose a person to powerful opioid medications that can eventually lead to abuse, dependence, and addiction.
Herring said with excess prescription opioids known to contribute to misuse, abuse, and addiction, these kits will allow Virginians to safely dispose of these drugs without contaminating water sources or harming the environment.
“Some people just don’t know what to do with them,” said Regina Whitsett with Chesterfield SAFE.
Whitsett says they will also hand out their own kits later this month along with Chesterfield Police. She says kids often take pills before turning to heroin as a cheaper alternative.
“Many many times we’re seeing heroin addiction now that started because people had access to the drugs from their parents drug cabinets,” said Dr. Peter Coleman, founder of IWINS.
IWINS stand for “I Wish I Never Started.” Coleman, a former addict himself, runs a detox center and started IWINS in an effort to educate the public about the dangers of prescription medication. Coleman also says he believes part of the problem are doctors who are over prescibing medications.
“I had a friend the other day who fractured her wrist and she got a hundred percocets and she literally needed 12 of them,” said Coleman.
According to Herring, in 2015, 576 Virginians died from a prescription opioid overdose, 342 from a heroin overdose, and 224 from an overdose of fentanyl. Through the first six months of 2016, at least 213 Virginians have died from a fatal prescription opioid overdose, 103 from a heroin overdose, and 136 from a fentanyl overdose.
“We know that, in many cases, this opioid crisis has its roots in the medicine cabinet,” said Attorney General Herring. “Something as simple as a sports injury, dental work, or a surgery can expose a person to powerful opioid medications that can eventually lead to abuse, dependence, and addiction. Once the pills run out or become too expensive, people find themselves looking for more illicit drugs to support their habit and they find cheap, potent, and inconsistent heroin on the streets.
Herring also said he has spoken to many Virginians who have started down the path to addiction by misusing prescription drugs, and many parents who lost a child to an opioid addiction that began with prescriptions and ended with a fatal overdose of heroin or fentanyl.
“If we can educate more Virginians on the power and potential danger of these drugs, and reduce the number of loose prescriptions in homes, we can keep more Virginians from ever going down that path in the first place,” Herring said. “I really think these kits are going to make Virginia homes and families safer by providing a safe way to get rid of unused opioids and other prescriptions.”
Herring is getting these drug disposal kits to Virginians in two different ways:
- Beginning November 1, approximately 50,000 kits will be distributed statewide by partnering with the Virginia Department of Health.
- An additional 30,000 kits will be made available to local hospitals, law enforcement agencies, pharmacies, and nonprofits through an application process on Attorney General Herring’s website.
There will be no cost to the state or to individuals for the drug deactivation kits, according to Herring.
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