North Carolinians turned in 3.5 million dosage units of potentially dangerous old prescription and over-the-counter drugs during a single day as part of Operation Medicine Drop events held statewide on Oct. 29, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced.
“When used correctly, prescription drugs can improve and even save lives. But when abused, prescription drugs can be dangerous and even deadly,” Cooper said. “Getting these drugs out of homes where they can be easily stolen or taken by the wrong person can prevent prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths.”
The State Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement agencies, Safe Kids North Carolina, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration helped put on more than 150 prescription take-back events across North Carolina in cooperation with local non-profits and other groups as part of the National Take Back Initiative. Of the more than 8,000 pounds of drugs collected on Oct. 29, 20 percent were controlled substances such as pain relievers like hydrocodone and methadone.
Among the biggest collection locations in the state, Jacksonville police collected 158,000 doses, the Moore County Sheriff’s Office collected 190,000 doses, and Greensboro police collected 419,000 doses. One agency collected nearly 100 unused Fentanyl patches, which is one of the deadliest drugs when abused.
A report released recently by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control calls prescription drug abuse an epidemic. More people in the U.S. now die from prescription drug overdoses than from cocaine and heroin overdoses combined, the CDC report finds. In North Carolina alone, the number of deaths from unintentional overdoses has risen 400 percent, from 228 in 1997 to 902 in 2006, according to the N.C. Division of Public Health. North Carolina is on pace to have 1,000 or more overdose deaths this year.
Operation Medicine Drop aims to cut down on prescription drug abuse by encouraging people to properly dispose of old drugs that they no longer need. Earlier this spring, Operation Medicine Drop events collected 4.6 million dosage units of prescription drugs.
The SBI’s Diversion and Environmental Crimes Unit is in the process of applying for a grant to purchase drop boxes for counties across the state so that North Carolinians could safely and anonymously turn in unused drugs 365 days a year.
SBI and DEA agents gathered the drugs collected on Oct. 29 and delivered them for disposal with assistance from the State Highway Patrol. The drugs were safely destroyed at the Haw River Incinerator in Burlington, an incinerator approved by the NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.