By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND -- Residents will now have a safe place to drop off their unwanted or expired prescription drugs around the clock, thanks to a partnership between the Police Department and the Middlesex Country District Attorney's Office.
The DA's office purchased a MedReturn Drug Collection Unit using drug-forfeiture money. The money is being used by the DA's Office for drug rehabilitation, drug-use education and other anti-drug-abuse efforts, according to a press release issued by DA Marian Ryan's office.
The box will be in the lobby of the police station on Brookline Road, and can be accessed any time of day, according to Police Chief Erving Marshall.
Towns in the state, including Townsend, often host a drug take-back day once a year, but the box will provide greater access to residents.
Similar boxes have been purchased for other towns in Middlesex County, including Ashland, Bedford and Sudbury.
According to the press release, more than 40 people in Middlesex County this year have died of overdoses of drugs such as heroin and opiates, which include some prescription drugs.
Ryan said the state has been battling what she calls a "frightening epidemic" of drug abuse, especially when it comes to overdoses, including recent heroin overdoses that are believed to be laced with fentanyl, a drug that can cause respiratory failure.
It is her hope that by putting the drop boxes in communities, it will begin the process of cutting down on drug-related deaths, saying there is a direct correlation between illegal prescription-drug abuse and heroin use.
"The drug-collection unit is one prevention measure that can be very effective in ensuring that children and teens do not have access to powerful prescription narcotics that could lead them down a path toward addiction," she said.
Marshall said that like other communities in the county, Townsend has seen a recent increase in drug use, especially opiates.
A National Institute on Drug Abuse study released in January found that 52 million people over age 12 have used prescription drugs nonmedically in their lifetime, according to Ryan.
Also, she said, 54 percent of people who use prescription drugs say they obtain them free from friends or family, and another 16 percent of teens surveyed said prescription drugs are easy to get from their parents' medicine cabinet.
Follow Katina Caraganis on Tout and Twitter @kcaraganis.