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VA Medical Center offers disposal of medications

Area residents will now have 24/7 access to dispose of unused or unwanted medications.

The Van Zandt VA Medical Center unveiled the NarcX Biodegradable Medication Disposal site Thursday, which will allow anyone from the community, regardless of military status, to safely dispose of pills and medications at the center.

“This is a shining example of going in and addressing issues in our community,” said Congressman John Joyce, who was on hand Thursday to unveil the disposal unit. “Having the NarcX as another tool is going to be very important toward battling this unfortunate epidemic.”

The NarcX unit became available for the public to use after the DUMP Opioids Act was put into effect this month.

The act, of which Joyce was one of the lead supporters, allows everyone in a community to dispose of unused controlled substance prescription medications at VA medical center drop boxes.

The act was approved unanimously by the Senate and House in July.

“This is a big part of the solution,” said Jim Carroll, the former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “This is another thing that we can use to combat this epidemic. The VA is still going to work in conjunction with law enforcement, local municipalities and other organizations, but this adds just another tool in our toolbox.”

Joyce said the act turned out to be a win-win for the local community and veterans, whom Joyce referred to as “key figures of society.”

“This addiction epidemic spares no one,” Joyce said. “Addiction is not specific to one socioeconomic group — it crosses all boundaries. … Each and every one of these individuals with addiction are suffering, and we have to take an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

Unused prescription drugs are some of the most dangerous forms of medication, Caroll said, with more than 50,000 children annually ingesting old or unused prescription drugs.

According to officials from NarcX, 29% of patients misuse medications for chronic pain, and 130 people in the country die every day as the result of an opioid overdose.

“The drug epidemic is everywhere,” Carroll said. “A lot of people think that it’s just in the city and urban areas, and sadly, it’s not. The amount of drugs coming across the southern border and into our country is at an all-time high.”

The NarcX unit, which will soon be placed into service, is safe and easy to use for anyone with medications to dispose of, according to David Schiller, co-founder and chief compliance officer of NarcX.

To dispose of unused pills, Schiller said simply open the unit’s lid, dump any pills from a container into the box and close the lid.

Once the pills are dumped into the disposal unit, Schiller said they are instantly mixed into a liquid solution, dissolving the pills.

The liquid solution is environmentally friendly, Schiller said.

“Once you put your pills inside, it’s immediately non-retrievable,” Schiller said. “This is technology that’s never been used before, and we’re happy that it can be here in Altoona.”

There is also no abuse potential with the liquid form, Schiller said, as the solution was designed with ingredients that would cause the person ingesting the solution to vomit it back up.

The Van Zandt VA Medical Center is the first medical facility in the country to receive a NarcX unit, with Schiller announcing Thursday that he is donating the unit to the Altoona VA.

“We’re hoping this will be another solution toward fighting this epidemic,” he said.

Joyce said he encourages anyone with unused medications, both prescription or over the counter, to utilize the NarcX unit and “better protect their community.”

Mirror Staff Writer Calem Illig is at 814-946-7535.

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