DEA partners with community for Prescription Drug Take Back Day

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With an increase in opioid overdose deaths during the pandemic, the Drug Enforcement Administration on Saturday hosted its 20th Prescription Drug Take Back Day at sites around the country.

Rolando Ruiz says he used to have a strong addiction to prescription drugs, and it wasn’t hard to get his fix.

“When people leave prescription pills in their cabinet — when I was in active use and addiction — everyone’s house I’d go to, first place I’d go to is their medicine cabinet, looking to see what they had leftover, seeing what I can take,” Ruiz said. “It was just laying around, people leaving pills from past surgeries and whatnot, things that they didn’t know were valuable or worth anything. I’d find them and use them.”

The DEA’s Prescription Drug Take Back Day has become important for Ruiz, who’s now a youth prevention advocate.

“I’ve been part of the problem for so long. I want to be a part of the solution,” Ruiz said.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses in Minnesota and in America have been steadily increasing — and there was a big spike last year correlated with the onset of the pandemic.

“It is often stolen, it depends on, you have some people, the elderly or people post-surgery, cancer patients, those who are treated with opioids or heavy pain type of medication,” said Angela von Trytek, with the DEA.

And so for those who personally understand the struggle with addiction, every bag of drugs they take back is one that won’t end up on the streets.

“I love watching somebody drive up and drop it off,” said Zachary Salo, a youth prevention advocate. “It’s also preventing someone from going down the path.”

“Now I see the numbers just adding up. Okay, well that’s 100 pills? That’s maybe 20 to 25 people that won’t overdose or die. And that’s cool to see,” Ruiz said.

You can check out the permanent collection sites here.