A prescription drug drop-off event Saturday resulted in the collection of 107 pounds of prescription drugs at Tanger Outlets.

The event, organized by Riverhead Community Awareness Program (CAP), allowed residents to drive up and drop off their unused prescription and over-the-counter medications, avoiding potential abuse.

This event brings the total number of drugs collected to 822 pounds since a permanent drop-box was installed at Riverhead Police Department in August 2014 – another CAP initiative.

Riverhead CAP volunteers help collect prescription medications at Tanger Outlets on Saturday. Credit: Riverhead CAP
Riverhead CAP volunteers help collect prescription medications at Tanger Outlets on Saturday. Credit: Riverhead CAP

“We were able to remove these drugs from the community and raise awareness about the permanent drug drop box located in the lobby of the police department,” said Kelly Miloski, a CAP community prevention specialist.

Between the prescription drug drop-box and the recent take-back events, narcotics abuse in Riverhead 12th grade students has decreased from 7.5 percent in 2008 to 2.14 percent in 2014, according to Felicia Scocozza, executive director of CAP.

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Abuse rates are especially high among teenagers – it is more popular among teens than cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine combined.

Prescription drugs are more likely to be seen as “less risky” than other street drugs because they are prescribed by doctors and used as medication, according to CAP. They are also easier to obtain than street drugs, especially for teenagers, who mostly get them from family members, friends or in their own homes.

Prescription drugs, however, can be very addictive and are highly regulated, which can lead teenagers hooked on pills to eventually turn to heroin, a much cheaper drug to buy on the streets.

Prescription drugs can also be very deadly. Deaths from prescription drugs are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, outnumbering even traffic fatalities. Prescription drugs cause more deaths than all illegal drugs combined.

Saturday’s event was the second time Riverhead CAP has held a “drive-through” event to collect prescription drugs.

A prescription drug drop-box is available at the Riverhead Police Department on Howell Avenue 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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