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More Than 12 Million Doses of Prescription Drugs Collected in NC During Operation Medicine Drop Last Week

March 28, 2013. More than 12 million doses of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs were collected across North Carolina last week during Operation Medicine Drop, breaking previous records, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.

drugs“North Carolinians cleaned out their medicine cabinets and turned in more unused prescription drugs than ever before,” Cooper said.  “This is a great way to help keep potentially dangerous prescription drugs away from those who could abuse them.”

Operation Medicine Drop aims to cut down on prescription drug abuse and environmental damage by encouraging people to properly dispose of old drugs that are no longer needed. Cooper, the State Bureau of Investigation, Safe Kids North Carolina, local law enforcement agencies, the Riverkeepers of North Carolina and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of North Carolina teamed up for the fourth year to sponsor more than 250  prescription drug take-back events across North Carolina during the week of March 17-23, National Poison Prevention Week.

With around 80% of participating agencies reporting so far, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office leads the collections with 845,625 doses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The Cary Police Department collected 508,000 doses and the Union County Sheriff’s Office collected 340,000 doses.

This year there was a large increase in collection of Fentanyl patches—one of the deadliest painkillers when abused. Other interesting items turned in included Hydrocodone and Morphine prescribed in 1958, several packages of children medicines with directions written in Hindi, and a box of controlled substances that had been prescribed to a dog.

Safely disposing of old medications through Operation Medicine Drop events keeps the drugs from being misused or abused with potentially deadly consequences. 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 approximately 1,000 people died in North Carolina last year from overdosing on prescription drugs.

Taking old medications to prescription take-back events like Operation Medicine instead of flushing them down the drain also protects the environment, by preventing chemicals from ending up in the water supply.

The SBI gathered the drugs collected by local law enforcement and will deliver them to a North Carolina Division of Environment and Natural Resources approved incinerator in Alamance County for safe destruction. The North Carolina Highway Patrol will assist in transporting the 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.

To educate young people about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, Cooper is partnering with the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, the North Carolina Parent Resource Center, and the Governor’s Institute on Substance Abuse to sponsor a student video competition which runs until April 26.

“Prescription drug abuse is a silent killer that’s on the rise, especially among young people,” Cooper said. “We’re asking students to help us fight this epidemic.” 

Cooper is asking students to create brief public service announcement videos on teen prescription drug abuse.  All students enrolled in grades nine through 12 in North Carolina are eligible to enter.  The winning student will receive an Apple iPad, and the runners-up will receive an iPod Touch and an iTunes gift card. 

More details including the contest rules and application and last year’s winning videos are available at www.ncdoj.gov.