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Del. Shaneka Henson: Time to Clean Out the Medicine Cabinet

April 23, 2021

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 24.

Over the last year, COVID-19 has dominated our national discourse and overshadowed other topics. We have seen how COVID has masked and even worsened the opioid epidemic that has continued to ravage our communities.

Unfortunately, we see troubling evidence that addiction and the coronavirus may interact in ways that exacerbate both problems. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has documented how people with substance use disorders are at higher risk for contracting and suffering more severe consequences from COVID-19. Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of NIDA, and her colleagues also show through their research that this is especially true for African Americans.1

Throughout the year, we have heard a lot of debate about what is and is not essential, but we cannot debate that opioid recovery is essential for a healthy community. The good news is resources are available in communities across Anne Arundel County and our state.

The state’s 2-1-1 hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and our new texting service has easy access to information and resources. Simply text MDHope to 898-211 to lead you through a series of prompts to get you the information or help you need.

Each of us can help stop the spread of COVID by wearing a mask and socially distancing, and each of us can help curb the misuse of opioids by cleaning out our medicine cabinets and properly disposing of our unused medications.

My predecessor, the late Speaker of the House of Delegates, Mike Busch, helped launch an initiative three years ago this week called the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative or RALI Maryland. This coalition helps bring people and organizations together to share, learn, and work across communities to end the opioid epidemic.

RALI Maryland and Speaker Busch’s first order of business was to highlight National Prescription Drug Take Back Day as a step in ending this crisis that our communities have grappled with for too long.

This year, National Prescription Drug Take Back is Saturday, April 24. What’s remarkable about this day is that it’s a way we can each do our part. There’s no wondering, “How can I help?”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration hosts National Prescription Drug Take Back Day twice a year to help communities across the country safely dispose of their unused medications. As individuals and families seek ways to help end the opioid crisis, this presents a significant opportunity to take action.

According to a 2019 survey by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2019. The DEA also reported that “A majority of misused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from home medicine cabinets.” 2

It takes everyone – community groups, healthcare advocates, pharmacists, first responders, and businesses – working together to raise awareness about the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.

Now it’s time to do our part. On Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., let’s put on our masks, stay socially distanced, and drop off our unused medications at dozens of locations across the state.

–Shaneka Henson, State Delegate for District 30A



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