Editorial: Medicine drop key element in drug war

Mar. 18, 2013 @ 11:12 PM

By mid-morning on Monday, Henderson police had already collected more than 4,000 pills.

The total will climb. It always does. And that’s a good thing.

Operation Medicine Drop is a partnership between local law enforcement agencies, including the Vance County Sheriff’s Office in addition to Henderson police, and several other organizations. Among them are Safe Kids North Carolina, the Riverkeepers of North Carolina, the State Bureau of Investigation and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of North Carolina.

The program is simple. Unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications can be dropped off at designated locations. The goal is to prevent accidental poisonings and drug abuse. Waters of our state are also protected.

Some agencies stage weeklong events, others single days, usually timed during National Poison Prevention Week. More than 1,000 events have been held since 2010, and more than 30 million medications have been collected.

North Carolinians, on average, fill about 14 prescriptions annually. That’s more than 127 million prescription drugs entering households.

About 40 percent are never used. Thus, there’s great need for a way to dispose of the excess. Operation Medicine Drop provides just that.

Since 1999 in our state, 75 percent of the unintentional poisonings have been the result of misuse or abuse of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, according to the N.C. Division of Public Health. More than 33,000 have been injured in some way from unintentional poisoning, and more than 5,700 have lost their lives.

Poisoning is second only to motor vehicle crashes in leading causes of unintentional injury in North Carolina.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates 20 percent of the national population, or about 48 million of us, will use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in our lifetime.

Drug abuse and problems have a vast expanse. They’re not limited to dark alleys and seedy sections of communities, nor are they simply the injured person constantly looking for some relief. It is all of that and more.

We’re pleased to see our two main law enforcement agencies involved in the program this week. As a community we also have a part, a responsibility, to be sure we participate and make proper disposals.