Author: 
Dr. John Harrison

National Drug Take Back Day Reflections on Four Hours and 45 Lives

In the parking lot of a church in Alexandria, Va., over four hours April 30th, providence gave me an opportunity to meet 45 wonderful individuals as part of a National Drug Take Back Day. Working in support of the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria, I had a chance to be part of the lives of others - for a few minutes each meeting. There was a steady flow of individuals – women and men – most of whom would be described as “baby-boomers” – all with a story that some wished to share.

Most said this was their first time to participate in a turn-in. Several had recently lost loved ones and the act of letting go of the medicines and syringes represented much more to them than just disposing of substances and there were very moving moments of remembrance. For others, the ability to “just do something!” with unused or unneeded drugs, with expiration dates ranging from six-months old to more than 15-years old, made them happy. “I suppose I could have used coffee grounds and gotten rid of this at home, but it just didn’t feel right!” was a statement heard more than once.

The concepts of love, caring for others and safeguarding the future of young people and the environment were also present. Those dropping off drugs included nurses, teachers, federal employees (from many agencies), one science historian, retirees and many “Dr. Moms.”

People arrived in cars, on foot, by bus and by bicycle. A recurring goal and reason for coming had to do with getting rid of any possibility of the drugs getting in the wrong hands – children, grandchildren, or the community by improper disposal into the trash, ground or the water. In watching each person approach our spot and go about the transfer, it was heartwarming for me and my partners to see the joy many of them seemed to be taking in the moment. In addition, almost everyone expressed their thanks for our efforts (which were very small) while we were there to tell them “Thank You!” for doing something good that many others pass up until another day. Despite the cool weather and overcast skies, there was a sense of goodness and community present right up to the last moment.

If you didn’t have a chance to drop off your unwanted medications, you can find a permanent drop box in your community.

Dr. John Harrison is retired from the United States Army and now serves as the Special Assistant to CADCA’s Chairman and CEO.