The drug take back event Saturday was held at Peconic Bay Medical Center. Courtesy photo: Riverhead CAP

A drug take-back event at Peconic Bay Medical Center collected an astounding 163 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter medications, bringing the total number of drugs collected to more than 1,500 pounds since 2014.

It is the most drugs collected at a single event since Riverhead CAP began organizing the take-back events four years ago.  The next event will be held May 14 at the Riverhead Highway Department from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The take-back events give the public a safe and easy way to dispose of unused medications that could fall into the wrong hands if they remain sitting in residents’ medicine cabinets.

It also raises public awareness of the permanent medication drop box that was installed in Riverhead Police Department headquarters in August 2014, which is available 24/7 and has netted more than 1,500 pounds of drugs since its installation.

“It is important to give people an opportunity to safely dispose of medications that may otherwise be discarded in a way that can be harmful to the environment or, in the case of controlled substances, fall into the wrong hands and contribute to the epidemic of people addicted to opiates,” said Jack Kann, director of pharmacy services at PBMC Health.

Prescription drug deaths are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., outnumbering highway traffic fatalities. More people die from prescription drug overdoses than from all illegal drugs combined.

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, especially among teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One in five teens say they have taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription, according to the CDC, and nearly half of young people who inject heroin reported abusing prescription painkillers before starting to use heroin.

Many individuals report taking up heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription drugs.

“Being part of this event is important to us in order to keep the community safe and prescription drugs out of the wrong hands,” said Staff Sergeant Carissa Cantone of the NY Air National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, who who is an active member of the Riverhead Community Coalition.

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