WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. -- As the nationwide opioid epidemic continues to grow, so is a nationwide effort to collect and dispose of prescription medication.
Several Colorado law enforcement agencies reported collecting record numbers of drugs on Saturday as part of the DEA’s National Drug Take Day.
Police in Wheat Ridge spent four hours disposing of pills and recycling bottles on Saturday. Officers saw a steady stream of people despite a mix of rain and snow throughout the event.
"We thought, given the weather, that it would be much lighter,” Det. Jo McCormack said. “But we're doing more than we have in probably the last three years."
There was another big turn-out in Glendale, where officers collected 351 pounds of old prescription drugs at the police station. The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office reported a local record of more than 1,400 pounds of medication dropped off.
Similar scenes played out all across the country with more than 3,000 sites taking in tons of drugs.
But according to TakeMedsSeriously.org, there's much more work to be done. According to the site, "Four billion prescriptions are filled in the U.S. every year and a third of that medicine goes unused. That's 200 million pounds of unused medication.”
Disposing of that medication properly is critical. There are an average of 35 prescription drug deaths a month in Colorado. Nationwide, overdose deaths, driven largely by opiates like painkillers, are 50 percent higher than deaths from car accidents and firearms.
"We're 5 percent of the world's population, we consume 99 percent of the world's hydrocodone and about 80 percent of the world's oxycodone,” Drug Enforcement Agency acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said. “And we know that there is a very clear path from opioid abuse to heroin abuse because four out of five new heroin users started on pills."
It's a path police in Wheat Ridge are looking to prevent on pill a time. If you have drugs to dispose of, you can still do so.