As the nation tries to find ways to deal with the opioid abuse crisis, Washington, D.C., is taking a new approach to get the drugs out of the hands of people who do not need them.
Law enforcement and D.C. drug stores support the use of drop boxes for people to get rid of unwanted drugs safely with no questions asked. Drop boxes have been installed at five locations and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“One way in and no way out,” said Karl Racine, attorney general for the District of Columbia, as he inspected a drop box at a CVS on Dupont Circle. “I am a proponent of more. There's no doubt about it. I give them credit for the first step. I'd like to see more throughout the city.”
Opioid overdose deaths have risen from 83 in 2014 to 216 so far this year in Washington. Medical experts said it just takes three days for someone to become addicted to prescription painkillers.
“The abuse of opioids and the increase in fatal overdoses we are experiencing here in the District poses a serious public health threat,” said Chief Peter Newsham, with the Metropolitan Police Department.
CVS said the drop box will help get drugs off the street, so they can't be stolen or resold. It plans drop boxes in Virginia and Maryland next year, but that is still only a handful of stores out of about 200 regionwide.
“What we're doing today is but one step to avert unnecessary death,” Racine said. “To insure that unnecessary supply of opioids don't fall into the wrong hands.”
The DC Council is considering a plan to require all opioid prescriptions to be electronic to also cut down on fakes and frauds. But Newsham cautioned against another bill to require police to carry drug antidotes. He said it would be an expensive distraction from police work.
There are three CVS locations that will have the drop boxes: 320 40th Street NE; 6514 Georgia Avenue NW; 6-7 Dupont Circle NW.
There are two Walgreens locations that will have the drop boxes: 801 7th Street NW; 1155 F Street NW.