November 3, 2013
North Carolinians turned in approximately 9.5 million doses of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs during fall Operation Medicine Drop events, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced recently.
That brings the total number of prescription drug doses collected at take back events in 2013 to 22.9 million. Since Operation Medicine Drop started in 2009, approximately 52.8 million total doses have been turned in.
“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 State Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement agencies, 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.
Nationwide, fatal drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death due to unintentional injury, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. 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 Huntersville, Ala., for safe destruction. Thanks to the N.C. Highway Patrol for helping transport the drugs.