PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In 2013, more drug overdose deaths in Oregon involved prescription opioids than any other type of drug, including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and alcohol.
Since then, efforts to reduce prescription drug overdoses continue to challenge local, state and federal law enforcement and health agencies. One of the efforts to reduce the epidemic is to improve safe drug storage and unused medication disposal.
This weekend, hundreds of law enforcement agencies throughout the United States will participate in The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
The effort is lead by the DEA. The take back day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse and medications.
“Addiction is a terrible beast,” DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Cam Strahm said.
Strahm supervises the DEA office in the District of Oregon and said more than 75% of special agents’ investigative efforts are in furtherance of reducing availability of opioids in the state.
In Oregon, drug trafficking organizations continue to run heroin and other opioids that get sold and traded on the streets across the state. Most of the drugs are brought in from Mexico and China.
“If we can impact those organizations that are bringing illicit prescribed opioids into our community…and make those seizers before they get to Oregon we reduce availability,” Strahm said.
Supporters of drug take back efforts have even asked for state law makers to explore statutory changes that would require routine drug take programs at pharmacies.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate.
“You see the medicine cabinet as a starting point for experimentation,” according to Strahm.
U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams knows firsthand the damaging effects prescription opioid abuse can have on a community.
“There is story after story of people who get a prescription through their doctor and then they get addicted,” Williams said. His own father struggled with addiction.
“It’s easy to think that it’s the family next door, or the family that you just hear about on the news and the reality is it could be your own family,” Williams said. His father was severely injured and was prescribed painkillers.
The addiction last for more than 4 decades, according to Williams.
Williams described his father as a devoted Christian, and like many people who struggle with addiction, recognition and getting help was the most difficult. “He never wanted to hear that he was addicted,” Williams said. “And he was.”
Saturday’s National Take-Back Initiative runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. You can find a collection site here. On Saturday, the Portland Police Bureau will host a prescription drug turn-in and shred event at Southeast Precinct, located at 4735 East Burnside Street.
If you’re unable to participate in Saturday’s event, or if you want to turn in drugs sooner than Saturday, or after, click here.
You can also call 800.882.9539 to find your nearest drug take back location for Saturday.