Find out how & where to participate in this year’s DEA National Drug Takeback event

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s that time of the year, take a look in your medicine cabinet and get rid of those medications that expired or aren’t being used anymore.

You can dispose of these medications properly by taking them to the National Drug Takeback event on Saturday.

There will be dozens of drop-off locations across East Tennessee. You can check out the DEA’s collection site locator linked above.

Why is it important to participate?

In Knox County alone, 289 people have died so far this year from suspected overdoses. That’s already 30 more people than in 2019 as a whole.

Dr. Kip Wegner, Medical Director at the Cornerstone of Recovery, said COVID-19 was a huge contributing factor to the increase.

“Addiction thrives in isolation, and COVID is all about isolation,” Wegner said.

Wegner also works as an ER physician on the weekends, so he sees both ends of addiction.

He usually asks patients how they started using drugs and where did they get them in the first place.

He said more often than not, his patients were prescribed opioids or found them in their family’s medicine cabinets.

“It started so simply, so easily. ‘I had hurt my ankle, and I was on these drugs and it made me feel kind of good, and I talked to a buddy who said, ‘oh if you think that’s good, you should inhale.’ So then I cracked them up and I sniffed them. I talked to the same buddy and he said, ‘if you think that’s good, you should inject them,'” Wegner said as an example.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

Wegner said back in the day, he didn’t like seeing ER patients who came in with obvious addictions asking for pain killers.

Now, he likes to treat them so he can find out how they got to that point, and offer recovery resources.

“My perception 30 years ago was that, you know, somebody who used heroin was somebody in a back alley shooting needles.

That’s not true anymore. That could be your kid at the high school. These are high school kids.”

“My perception 30 years ago was that, you know, somebody who used heroin was somebody in a back alley shooting needles. That’s not true anymore. That could be your kid at the high school. These are high school kids,” Wegner said.

Wegner said Drug Take Back events partly help, only because overprescribing is still an issue.

“We’re working hard to try to reduce the prescribing, we have a lot of, we have a ways to go, obviously. But, some of our mistakes are in people’s medicine cabinets right now.”

However, patients can help take care of that issue by not holding onto the leftover medication in their cabinets.

“The key is to reduce/limit, get rid of the availability, you know, within your own medicine cabinet,” Wegner said.

The Metro Drug Coalition is hosting the DEA sponsored Drug Take Back event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kroger off Kingston Pike near Cedar Bluff.

Katie Cowan, Project Director for MDC, said this event will be held slightly differently due to COVID-19.

It will be a drive-thru event and they ask that everyone keeps the medicine in the bottles or packaging before putting it in a larger bag.

The DEA says that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, collection sites may be limited.

So, if you can’t find a collection site near you, click here to learn more about other ways to dispose of and keep medications safe.

“The DEA’s Take Back Day events provide an opportunity for Americans to prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths.”

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