By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — Holding a brown, cylinder bottle, Shadonna Mills walks into the Indiana Government Center eager to get rid of what’s inside.
“Twenty-eight pills,” she said, shaking her head. “Twenty-eight pills and he only needed 13.”
Mills’ son, Gerry, had his wisdom teeth removed — a surgery about 3.5 million people have a year, most who are prescribed pain killers. Gerry was prescribed Percocet, a painkiller that has high risk for addiction and dependence.
Drug Take Back Day is a two-day event which allows Hoosiers to drop unwanted pills off anonymously at no cost. The Indiana State Police gathered more than 1,200 pounds of pills in April at the first event of the year. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com
Mills brought her son’s leftover pills to Drug Take Back Day. The event, taking place Friday and Saturday, allows Hoosiers to drop off unwanted medicine anonymously at no cost.
Gerry, 17, needed the medication for a few days after surgery, but his mom wondered why he was given so many pills when he only needed 13.
“He could have become another number,” Mills said Friday. “His little brother could have gotten ahold of them and maybe he would have become another number, another young person addicted.”
The concern has been brought up by some doctors as well.
“The issue here is we need to prescribe drugs in a more intelligent manner,” said Dan Rusyniak, medical director at the Indiana Poison Center. “We need to educate people about what they’re being prescribed.”
Thankfully, Mills said, she was up-to-date on the opioid issue. President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency Thursday after saying it’s “the worst drug crisis in American history.” In 2016, 64,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses.
“It’s sad because I’m aware enough to know to hide them and to get rid of them as soon as he was done with them,” Mills said of the pills. “But the thing is, so many people will keep them in their cabinet and they’ll take them when they get a little bit of pain somewhere else or a family member can take them and that’s a problem.”
Due to the opioid epidemic, Mills is even more adamant the drugs need to get off the streets, and thanks Drug Take Back Days for taking the first step.
“My son will be ok, thanks to this event,” she said. “But we have to find a way to get these off our streets so kids stop dying.”
According to the Indiana Youth Institute, more Hoosier deaths are caused by prescription drugs than car crashes and gun homicides combined.
The Indiana State Police encourages Hoosiers to bring all narcotics to the event so they are taken off the street. The police follow a no questions asked policy and will take care of getting rid of the pills upon collection.
In Indiana alone, 757 people died in 2016 from opioid overdoses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For every 100 people in the state, 84 of them have an opioid prescription.
The Take Back Day event, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency in conjunction with the attorney general’s office, is held twice a year. In April, the Indiana State Police gathered 1,245 pounds of pills across the state. All locations can be found on the DEA’s website.
Throughout the rest of the year, Hoosiers can contact their local police department to find a drop off location near them.
“I want to stop flipping on the news to see another person slumped over in their car from an overdose,” Mills said. “So, please, take the time, clean out the cabinets and take the pills in.”
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.