BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Department turned in 22,057 dosage units (31.51 pounds) out of the approximately 9.5 million doses of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs collected during fall Operation Medicine Drop events, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday. Last weekend’s results brings the total number of prescription drug doses collected at take back events in 2013 to 22.9 million.
“People are learning more about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs, and they’re protecting their families by bringing unused drugs to events like these,” Cooper said. “Safely disposing of old medications keeps potentially deadly drugs out of the wrong hands, and it protects our water as well.”
Operation Medicine Drop helps cut down on prescription drug abuse and environmental damage by encouraging people to properly dispose of old drugs.
Cooper, the HYPERLINK "http://www.ncdoj.gov/getdoc/b5f973ea-a5e9-4bec-afd0-e9be888b7890/State-Bureau-of-Investigation.aspx"State Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement agencies, HYPERLINK "http://www.ncdoi.com/OSFM/SafeKids/"Safe Kids North Carolina, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sponsored more than 140 prescription drug take-back events in 53 counties by 83 agencies on or around October 26. The Durham Police Department led the collections with 773,500 dosage units collected. The Greensboro Police Department came in second with approximately 735,000 dosage units collected.
Nationwide, fatal drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death due to unintentional injury, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Pills were collected in Edgecombe County at Wal-Mart, Piggly Wiggly in Pinetops, OIC Center in Rocky Mount, West Edgecombe Volunteer Fire Department and Whitakers Volunteer Fire Department.
Sheriff James Knight said he has seen a growing number of people abusing painkillers and overdosing on them. In the past six months, the sheriff's department has received 13 calls in reference to people overdosing on prescription drugs.
"To some, this may not sound like much, but as far as I am concerned, that is too many," Knight said. "Believe it or not, some people actually think that just because medicine is prescribed by a doctor, it shouldn't be as harmful as an illegal drug."
Prescription drugs are highly addictive and every bit as dangerous as street drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and other drugs, he noted.
Prescription and over-the-counter medications cause more than three-fourths of all unintentional poisonings in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Division of Public Health, and more than 1,000 people died in North Carolina last year from overdosing on prescription drugs.
The intentional abuse of prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives to get high is a growing concern, particularly among teens. Among people ages 12-17, prescription drugs are now the second most abused drug, behind marijuana. “Every pill that gets turned in is one less pill that can be abused or misused,” Cooper said. “By getting old drugs out of our homes, we can help fight the epidemic of prescription drug overdoses.” Safely disposing of old medications through Operation Medicine Drop events instead of flushing them down the drain also helps the environment, by preventing chemicals from ending up in the water supply.
The SBI gathered the drugs collected by local law enforcement agencies for delivery to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved incinerator in Huntsville, Ala. for safe destruction. Since HYPERLINK "http://www.ncdoj.gov/getdoc/5386f36d-cbd7-4b76-8327-584a88985645/Operation-Medicine-Drop.aspx"Operation Medicine Drop started in 2009, approximately 52.8 million total doses have been turned in.
(A press release from the North Carolina Department of Justice and an archived story from www.dailysoutherner.com contributed to this report.)