Operation Pill Drop disposes of unwanted medications
by Brande Poulnot
Sep 23, 2010 | 1708 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
One of the fast-growing public health and safety problems is lurking in your medicine cabinet. Because the rates of prescription and over-the-counter medication abuse and accidental poisonings and overdoses are on the rise across the country, the Cartersville Police Department is teaming up with the Drug Enforcement Administration to offer locals a way to properly dispose of the substances.

Operation Pill Drop is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CPD headquarters, 178 W. Main St. in Cartersville. Officials will accept expired, unused and unwanted medications for their proper disposal to protect families and the environment.

"It's an opportunity for us to provide a service, I believe, is beneficial to the community, it's something they need and maybe it's the impetus to help people get rid of all these old drugs they have sitting around," Chief Tommy Culpepper said. "You don't have to look very far to read a story about a child going into a medicine cabinet and getting some unused prescription drug and using it for unlawful purposes. So this is an opportunity to help people do that and we are public servants and that's what we're here for."

While unintentional poisonings from prescription medications are on the rise -- more than 2 million exposures are reported in the U.S. every year and last year more than 51 percent of poisonings reported in Georgia involved children 5 and younger under -- the abuse of prescription drugs has increased exponentially. The nationwide effort to take back prescription drugs resulted from a study released in July. It concluded substance abuse treatment admissions involving pain reliever abuse increased 400 percent from 1998 to 2008.

"The increase in the percentage of admissions abusing pain relievers spans every age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, employment level and region," the press release states. "The study also shows a more than tripling of pain reliever abuse among patients who needed treatment for opioid dependence."

After the study, DEA said it would increase disposal programs, educate physicians who prescribe painkillers and assist states in addressing doctor shopping by expanding prescription drug monitoring programs and disbanding pill mills -- criminal organizations transport people to states with little regulation to get prescription drugs from multiple doctors or pill mills, which distribute drugs indiscriminately.

Now the second-most prevalent form of illicit drug use in the country, people who use prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes often get pills from friends and family or someone's medicine cabinet.

"The danger there is that it can be an enticement. Kids hear about it and they know there's pills in there and they say, 'I think I'll go experiment,' or they see them in there," Culpepper said. "This is an opportunity to create a safer environment.

"You get this out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy and if they don't see it, maybe they won't be tempted to experiment with it or share it with a friend that might experiment with it or go do something else that could get them in trouble and have life-long effects."

Simply throwing away pills or flushing them down the toilet is not a good idea -- both are potential safety and health hazards, DEA says.

The effort to take back medicine could reduce the threat, as substances that languish in medicine cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Although it is a quickly-growing problem across the nation, the rates may be just inching up in Cartersville and Bartow County.

"We don't see a lot of that. It comes up, but we don't see an alarming amount of it. Of course, any of it is bad, but we don't see signs of an epidemic of it in this area," Culpepper said. "I know it does occur. [Operation Pill Drop] is very convenient because [abuse] does occur and we understand that whatever is popular is out there on Facebook and Twitter and all of the things, and if you have access to the information, maybe it convinces you it's worth trying. There's a lot of pressure out there to solve problems and sometimes people make the wrong choice. This just helps people get rid of them -- one less temptation in life to make a wrong choice."