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Wisconsin leads nation in collection of unused prescription pills

Published: Nov. 9, 2020 at 5:33 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin now leads the nation for taking the most unwanted and unused prescriptions medications off the streets.

That record is also making a dent in an addiction problem that’s been growing amid the pandemic.

89,982 pounds of pills.

That’s nearly 45 tons, not even including the weight of bottles, loaded up on four semis in late October and wheeled off to Indianapolis where the drugs are safely incinerated.

“We collected more pounds of unused and unwanted medication than any other state in the country, even states that are much bigger, like Texas and California. And what that means is that more medications are safely disposed of and can’t be diverted in ways that could lead to substance use disorders,” says Attorney General Josh Kaul.

That’s long been the main concern driving the Drug Take Back project.

As the opioid epidemic spiked in the last decade, the Take Back program became a deterrent, making it harder for addicts to find drugs.

The number of addictions had been steadily improving, but like so many things, COVID-19 is disrupting that trend.

“People are having fewer social contacts with others, and with that comes a lot of additional challenges, including mental health challenges, as well as increased substance use disorder. We’ve seen the opioid epidemic get worse during the pandemic,” says Kaul.

Wisconsin’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program shows nearly 5.8 million prescriptions for controlled substances were written through September of this year.

That same data shows prescriptions specifically for opioids, among the most addicting of the drugs monitored, slowly increased between April and July this year by more than 50,000.

""It’s important that we remain committed to this because people get new prescriptions, they get new medications all the time, and continuing to dispose of them safely is going to continue to keep people safe in Wisconsin," Kaul says.

The state canceled its annual spring drug collection because of the pandemic, which the attorney general says could be driving up numbers now.

Regardless, he’s happy to see more unused pills no longer accessible to potential abusers.

“This is a reflection of the commitment that people across the state of Wisconsin have to continuing to fight substance use disorder and ultimately to to make our communities safer,” explains Kaul.

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