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Drug Take Back Day Offers Safe Path for Prescription Disposal

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Saturday is National Drug Take Back Day, and there will be more than 135 events across Wisconsin where folks can dispose of both controlled and noncontrolled prescription drugs.

In part, the annual occasion aims to combat the spread of illicit opioid prescriptions, which have long plagued Wisconsin and the nation.

Josh Kaul, Wisconsin's Attorney General, said at a Stand Up for Recovery Ceremony this week, the state is seeing fewer new opioid prescriptions.

"There has been a significant decline in opioid prescriptions over the last several years," Kaul observed. "That has been really encouraging to see. There is undoubtedly increased awareness that prescriptions can lead to substance-use disorder."

According to a news release, residents can bring e-cigarette devices with the batteries removed,
aerosol sprays, inhalers and pet medications, among other things. Illegal drugs, needles and anything containing a bodily fluid will not be accepted.

While overall new prescriptions may be down, data indicates Wisconsin still struggles with the opioid crisis. According to the state's Department of Health Services, there were more than 1,200 opioid-related deaths in Wisconsin in 2020, the latest full year of available data, the highest annual death count since at least 2014.

Kaul pointed out the pandemic has exacerbated underlying mental-health issues for those working through substance-use disorder.

"The pandemic has led, as we all know, to increased isolation, increased mental-health challenges," Kaul noted. "It has caused many people to lose loved ones as a result of the pandemic, and that has taken a major toll on mental health and on substance-use disorder."

While officials encourage people to dispose of unused prescriptions this weekend, there are nearly 500 permanent drug disposal boxes scattered across the state.

Jonah Chester is Wisconsin Public Radio's 2022-2023 Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom. He most recently worked at Public News Service, a national radio news service, where he covered Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. He previously produced the 6 O'Clock News at WORT 89.9 FM in Madison, where he won numerous awards from the Milwaukee Press Club and Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for his reporting on issues in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin.
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