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Operation Take Back collects and disposes of unwanted prescription drugs 
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Staff Sgt. Paul Doroski, Massachusetts National Guard Counterdrug program, weighs a box of collected prescription drugs during Operation Take Back at Springfield Central High School on October 26.  Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Sandra Kozaczka records the weights. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Doug Huddy, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs/Released).
By Army National Guard Sgt. Doug Huddy, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs Office 

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Law enforcement and counterdrug personnel from various Massachusetts agencies worked together Saturday during Operation Take Back, a state-wide initiative to collect expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs from local communities.

The operation takes the unused drugs out of the medicine cabinets of the public – and out of the hands of potential abusers, according to officials involved in the action.

“This is an opportunity for the general public to bring in any unused and unneeded prescription drugs so that they can be disposed of safely,” said Springfield Police Department Community Affairs Liaison, Kathleen Brown.

The Massachusetts National Guard’s Counterdrug personnel played critical roles in the operation, providing logistical, planning, transportation and general support before, during, and after the operation.  Soldiers with the state’s counterdrug program weighed the collected prescriptions and loaded them onto trucks for transport to an incineration site. 

“Operation Take Back is a one-day nationwide collaborative effort led by the Drug Enforcement Administration and involving state and local law enforcement, as well as the National Guard for the purpose of removing potentially dangerous controlled substances from our nation’s homes and disposing them,” said Capt. Thomas Clark, Massachusetts National Guard’s Counterdrug Officer in Charge.  “Massachusetts National Guard’s counterdrug supported the operation by providing vehicle and stationary teams throughout the state at consolidated pick-up sites.  All vehicle teams had a DEA agent or Task Force Officer traveling with them.”

“As soon as we collect these items, DEA and law enforcement keep their eyes on these boxes, and the Guard has their eyes on these boxes, until they are destroyed,” said Brown.  “What better chain of custody could we have?”

After the drugs were collected, Guard personnel weighed and recorded the returned drugs and moved them to the transport vehicles.  National Guard counterdrug officials reported that 17,077 pounds of prescriptions were collected Saturday.  Combined with their contributions from previous operations, counterdrug officials reported that over 100,000 pounds of expired medications have been properly removed from the public in the past three years utilizing activities such as Operation Take Back.

“We moved the controlled substances to the designated disposal sites in order to properly remove these substances from the public,” said Clark.  The drugs were then incinerated.

Proper disposal of the drugs is critical, according to Brown.  Improperly discarding the drugs can lead to polluted natural resources.

“If you flush them down the toilet, like so many do, you are contaminating our ground water and we could be destroying the environment.”

The collection effort has been performed multiple times in the past, sometime happening twice a year.  Brown said these types of operations help in reducing the number of prescription drugs that can end up in the hands of the wrong user.

“If you have items in your medicine cabinet, sometimes children or other family members might get their hands on them, and that can create an awful health risk,” she said.  “Some people out there are drug dealers, and they don’t even know it.”