Staten Island Fights Drug Abuse with Prescription Pill Disposal Program

Staten Island’s new prescription drug pilot program will allow individuals to leave unwanted prescription drug pills at a drop box in any of the borough’s four police precincts. While the pilot program launched to little fanfare in early October, already police report that every drop box has been filled to the brim at least once in the last month. Medication is recorded in a log and sent to the NYPD Property Clerk for proper destruction.Individuals can anonymously deposit the medications in the secure drop boxes at any time. The program’s goal is to allow individuals with unused and unwanted medication to securely remove these drugs from their homes so a family member, relative or friend does not illegally sell or use the drugs themselves.“These lockable drop-off boxes present Staten Islanders with a safe and secure way to properly dispose of unused prescription pills at their local precinct,” said Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, Jr., whose office supplied much of the program’s funding.

While NYPD officials would not offer specifics as to the amount of medication collected, a source told the New York Daily News that each lockbox had been emptied out at least once in the month since the program began.The Staten Island program is modeled off a similar prescription drug disposal program that was first introduced in Brooklyn. Staten Island already participates in National Drug Take-Back Day; this past April, the program netted more than 400 pounds of prescription medications for the borough.

Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise for Staten Island Residents

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem amongst Staten Island residents, which is in line with a nationwide increase in prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths. In 2013, Staten Island police investigated 13 deaths related to prescription medication overdoses. In 2012, 73 people died of painkiller or heroin overdoses on Staten Island, according to the New York Daily News. To help combat prescription painkiller abuse, New York state put into place the “I-STOP” registry program, which requires doctors to register their patients’ prescription history. One thing that immediately jumped out at health workers was just how many people on Staten Island were being prescribed medication – well above the amount necessary.

For example, Amanda Wexler, the senior program director at the Staten Island YMCA says, “somebody would go to the dentist and have a root canal, and they leave with 180 [milligram] Vicodin or 180 [milligram] Percocet, which is a crazy amount. It would take months to take that amount. But people were taking them very nonchalantly.” This also meant that many households have extra bottles of unused painkillers lying around. And with this increased access comes a greater risk for abuse by family members or friends.

Stopping Painkiller Abuse By Reducing Access

Ready access to prescription painkillers makes it all too easy for Staten Island resident to continue abusing these medications. The new Staten Island pilot program provides a safe means for individuals to dispose of unwanted drugs, which reduces the likelihood that family members and friends could abuse these medications or sell them. Consider the possibility that a family member had surgery several years ago and left an unfinished bottle of Percocet in the medicine cabinet. Let’s say that the family’s teenage son discovers the bottle in the cabinet; he might sell the drugs at school to his friends or even experiment with taking the drugs himself. The Staten Island program makes it easy to get these drugs out of the house – reducing the likelihood that the family’s teenage son would be able to sell the drugs or use them himself.

Staten Island’s new program to collect unwanted prescription pills is an important first step to reducing access to these medications and taking away the temptation to abuse these drugs.

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