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Our View: Spring cleaning can save lives

Because prescription opioids are the second-most-abused drug in the U.S. behind marijuana — and because the "majority of prescription drug abusers say they get their drugs free from friends and family, including from the home medicine cabinet," according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration — a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day was created nine years ago.

The annual clean-out-your-medicine-cabinet-to-save-lives event is tomorrow, Saturday, April 27, with more than 10 law enforcement and county sites within 50 miles of Duluth participating. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. the Northland locations will be among more than 6,000 around the country collecting expired or no-longer-being-used prescription medications, preventing them from falling into the hands of those who might abuse them and possibly be harmed by them.

"In Minnesota, 2,503 people died of opioid overdose between 2014 and 2017," DEA Omaha Division Special Agent in Charge Richard Salter Jr., said in a statement this week, announcing this year's take-back day. "These were mothers, fathers, children, friends, and neighbors in our communities who didn't need to die. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a way in which members of our communities can do their part to prevent the next overdose death."

Every year, more than 70,000 Americans die from a drug overdose, according to the DEA. Closer to home, during the first three months of this year in St. Louis County, seven people died of opioid overdoses, the most for any one quarter in the county's history, as the News Tribune reported this month. During that same time period, law enforcement in St. Louis County administered the overdose antidote naloxone 37 times, including 11 times in Duluth, each time saving a life.

"Opioids affect everybody in this community: the rich, the poor, all genders, all races," Duluth police Lt. Jeff Kazel, commander of the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, said in a meeting with News Tribune Editorial Board members two years ago this month. "And it not only affects the victim of the overdose but the family and the community and businesses. It just is a terrible thing."

Most overdose victims are in their 20s or 30s. Most are habitual users. And overdoses are happening across the city, not just in a few neighborhoods, Kazel said.

"It's hitting every population group," he further stated in a March report in the News Tribune. "It's a war for life, is what it comes down to."

Gathering up and properly disposing of prescription opioids and other potentially harmful medicines already has made a difference. Since 2010, the DEA and its federal, tribal, and local law enforcement partners have collected nearly 11 million pounds of medications, the administration reported.

Saturday can help even more. Drop-off locations are listed at DEATakeBack.com and include 116 spots in Minnesota. Participating places in the Northland include the Duluth Public Safety Building at 2030 Arlington Drive; police stations in Superior, Cloquet, Fond du Lac, Moose Lake, Eveleth, Nashwauk, and Ely; Thomson Township Hall; the Carlton County Sheriff's Office; the St. Louis County Sheriff's offices in Hibbing and Virginia; and the Cook County Sheriff's Office in Grand Marais.

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