Operation Medicine Drop deemed a success

Published 12:25 am Friday, November 4, 2011

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies log in prescription and over-the-counter medications dropped off for disposal during Saturday’s Operation Medicine Drop. (Submitted Photo)

An Operation Medicine Drop event in Washington on Saturday resulted in at least 33,334 dosages dropped off for a safe, secure disposal.

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Beaufort County Developmental Center and Pamlico-Tar River Foundation sponsored the event at Lowe’s Home Improvement.

In Beaufort County, the growing problem of prescription medicine diversion into the illegal drug trade is one of the primary concerns for the sheriff’s office, according to Capt. Russell Davenport. Educating the public on the safe disposal of unused medicine is an essential goal of the sheriff’s office through events such as Operation Medicine Drop. Davenport reports that in four hours, area residents dropped off more than 33,334 dosages of prescribed and over-the-counter medications, anonymously and with no questions asked.  In March 2011, these same agencies partnered and collected 26,267 dosages in four hours.

According to an analysis of recent trends by the National Drug Control Office, “Next to marijuana, the most common illegal drugs teens are using to get high are prescription medications.” When asked why, teens responded with a common myth: they believe the use of prescription drugs is safer and more responsible than using street drugs. More than 70 percent of prescription-drug abusers say they get the medication from friends or relatives for free or by theft.

Another critical concern is that improper disposal of leftover medicines can contaminate soil and waterways. Government scientists have turned up traces of a wide variety of medicines — pain killers, antibiotics, birth-control pills, mood stabilizers, and others — in rivers, lakes and streams across the country. Studies are just now getting under way to determine if this pollution is dangerous to humans — but evidence suggests that it is dangerous to animals.

“If you flush your leftover medicines down the toilet, they pollute our water,” said Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Heather Jacobs Deck, one of the sponsors. “Then everybody’s taking your medicine without a prescription. Operation Medicine Drop is the perfect example of diverse agency and organizational collaboration that results in protecting our kids, communities, and water from drugs.”

According to Waterkeeper Alliance North Carolina, the average North Carolinian fills 14 prescriptions annually, which adds up to 128,000,000 prescriptions filled statewide each year.  Of the drugs dispensed, approximately 40 percent are never used, and in a recent survey, 89 percent of respondents disposed of medications in the garbage or flushed medications down the toilet or sink. Both practices lead to water contamination.

“Every time we collect and destroy a dosage of excess medication, it’s a success. We’re keeping these drugs out of the wrong hands and out of our waterways,” said N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. “I commend the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Beaufort County Developmental Center and Pamlico-Tar River Foundation for actively engaging their community in this very important initiative, and I thank the public for taking responsibility to dispose of medications in a safe, secure way.”

Beaufort County Developmental Center’s Pam Daw said, “BCDC is proud to join the sheriff’s office and Pamlico-Tar River Foundation in sponsoring a convenient, safe and anonymous method for disposal of expired and/or unused medication. We encourage everyone to always safeguard their medications, keep track of the quantity being used and properly dispose of any old or unused drugs or hold the medications until the next take back event. All of the agencies involved feel very strongly that this type of event is needed in our community, so we will be planning another Operation Medicine Drop in March 2012.”