PITTSFIELD -- Prescription drugs can kill.
On Saturday, more than 700 pounds of them were taken out of Berkshire County homes as part of the National Prescription Drug Take-back Day.
All of the drugs were transported to a collection site at 510 North St. in Pittsfield and put into a vehicle driven by a Drug Enforcement Administration official to deliver to Covanta Energy. They will then be turned into energy by the waste management company.
The Pittsfield collection site, at the Community Health Programs Neighborhood Health Center, received about 150 pounds of drugs from city residents.
The most successful collection in the county took place in North Adams, where 220 pounds of expired or unwanted drugs were received.
Police departments throughout the county helped collect the drugs at their stations or at other community locations. Many of them collect drugs throughout the year.
The towns of Lee and Lenox each collected more than 70 pounds of prescription drugs.
Ann McDonald, who works with Berkshire Health Systems, helped coordinate the countywide effort Saturday as a member of the Berkshire Pain Steering Committee.
The county started the program several years ago to "reduce the availability of controlled substances" in local homes, McDonald said.
"Young people will sometimes have their first exposure to opioids when they find them in the cabinets of their homes," she said. "Hopefully we will make homes safer."
John Rogers, a vice-president and general counsel with Berkshire Health Systems and chairman of the Berkshire County Pain Management Initiative, would like to see prescription drug companies collect the drugs themselves.
"It’s like GE picking up PCBs... they benefit from getting it into the stream of commerce. They should clean it up," Rogers said. "They shouldn’t leave it up to the community."
Death from prescription drug abuse now outpaces cocaine and heroin overdoses combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Prescription drug related deaths also exceed motor vehicle deaths in a majority of states.