PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence police hope that educating residents on the dangers of prescription drug addiction can make a dent in the opioid crisis that’s sweeping the country.
Saturday was National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, and local police departments held events where people could turn in unused or expired drugs with no questions asked.
At the Walgreens Pharmacy on Elmwood Avenue, Captain George Stamatakos of the Providence Police Department said that there is a definite need for more awareness of how potentially addicting prescription painkillers are.
“I don’t think people realize how dangerous prescription drugs are, and opiates in general because they’re the major cause of accidental death in America,” he said. “They’ve far surpassed traffic accidents, which is a really sobering statistic when you think about it.”
The goal of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is more than getting unused, unwanted, or expired prescription pills out of medicine cabinets nationwide. The ultimate goal is to save lives.
“We just want everybody to keep their homes safer, and that’s the bottom line,” said Captain Stamatakos. “That’s all we’re trying to accomplish here. You have to start somewhere.”
“It can start with one pill, literally with one pill,” Police Chief Hugh Clements said. Someone who uses a prescription painkiller, becomes hooked, and then runs out, can turn to illegal drugs such as heroin in order to get the same high, fueling increasing addiction rates nationwide.
“It’s happening in much larger numbers in New England,” he said. “We’re the epicenter of this crisis, but it’s happening all over the country. Well over 100 people a day are dying from an opioid overdose.”
Last year, 336 Rhode Islanders died from overdoses. Police hope events like Saturday’s prevent more deaths from overdose.
“We cannot arrest our way out of this,” Clements said, stressing that any reduction in the numbers of drug overdoses must involve cooperation between law enforcement, schools, families and health care professionals.