NCSO/DEA take back medicines

COVINGTON -- If you've ever wondered what you're supposed to do with old prescription medications you are no longer taking, the Newton County Sheriffs Office has a solution for you.

The NCSO will be joining with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's prescription drug Take-Back campaign on Sept. 25 and offering residents a safe way of disposing of prescription medications.

The Sheriff's Office will be holding the event inside the Covington Wal-Mart Supercenter from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The site will be one of 2,700 nationwide.

"People don't know how to properly dispose of unwanted medicine," said NCSO Public Information Officer Courtney Morrison, adding that flushing it down the toilet or putting it in the garbage is unsafe for several reasons.

"If you flush it, it ends up in the sewer system. If you throw it away, that leaves it out there for people to Dumpster dive, which can lead to overdoses, accidental poisons or abuse," she said.

But just leaving it in your home and doing nothing about it is unwise as well.

"The majority of abused prescription drugs are generally obtained from family and friends, which includes regular home medicine cabinets," Morrison said.

Morrison encouraged residents to take advantage of the opportunity to discard unwanted prescription drugs.

"This way, they will be safely destroyed, as opposed to ending up in our sewers or on our streets," she said.

There will be a drop-off station at Wal-Mart the day of the Take-Back event. The service is free and anonymous to all residents in Newton County and surrounding areas with no questions asked.

Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown urged all residents to clean out their medicine cabinets and bring in potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs for destruction.

"Many do not realize the tragic impact that prescription drugs (when abused) have on our society," Brown said. "When law enforcement and the community work together in taking these drugs off our streets, it makes the quality of life better for all of us."

Statistics show this warning is needed. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, of the 638 drug overdose deaths in Georgia in 2008, 543 involved prescription drugs or a combination of prescription drugs and illicit drugs. There were 95 deaths involving only illicit drugs.

Of those deaths, 16 were teens who were 17 years or younger. The age group 46 to 55 years comprised the largest group with 163 deaths.

According to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency report, 10 percent of all high school students are now abusing prescription drugs, while another survey reveals that 2.7 million individuals age 12 to 17 and 6.9 million individuals age 18 to 25 have abused prescription drugs at least once. Potentially, these teens are causing irreparable damage to vital organs, driving while under the influence and putting themselves at risk for death.

Statistics reveal now for the first time, the drug's user's choice beating out marijuana and cocaine are prescription drugs, which are easier to obtain. More than 750,000 doctors are the subject of Drug Enforcement Agency investigations each year.

Lt. Philip Bradford of the Covington/Newton County Special Investigations Unit said prescription drug abuse is definitely a problem locally.

"Our most increasing caseload is prescription drug offenders. Our main abusers are not young people, but middle-aged adults," Bradford said. "Those people would never smoke marijuana, but they will take pills for pain and then before long, good people get addicted."

But teens are also at risk.

According to Director Rick Allen of the Georgia Drug and Narcotics Agency, the trend of prescription drug abuse among teens in Georgia is on the rise. He cited news accounts of kids having parties and dumping drugs in a bowl or of pharmacy students becoming addicted while in school.

Allen suggested keeping prescription drugs locked up and away from kids, and he cautioned in this day of heavy media influence, children are becoming more exposed to drug use, noting it happens even with the very young.

A favorite is OxyContin, commonly referred to as "legal heroin." Allen said the powerful pain reliever is highly addictive and the lure is the "high" that can be reached with the drug.

Other drugs popular with abusers and legitimately prescribed by the bucketful for pain relief are Dilaudid, Lorcet, Lortab, Percocet, Percodan, Tylox and Vicodin.

Commonly abused depressants are Librium, Valium and Xanax and on the other end of the spectrum, favorite stimulants are Adderall, Concerta and Ritalin.

These tablets can be taken orally or they can be crushed and snorted. In some instances, abusers dissolve crushed tablets in water and then inject the solution.

"People think because a doctor wrote it (a prescription), it's legal, it's safe to take. But they don't realize they're taking seriously dangerous drugs," Allen said.

"The National Prescription Drug Take-Back campaign will provide a safe way for Americans to dispose of their unwanted prescription drugs," said Michele M. Leonhart, acting administrator of the DEA. "This effort symbolizes DEA's commitment to halting the disturbing rise in addiction caused by their misuse and abuse. Working together with our state and local partners, the medical community, anti-drug coalitions, and a concerned public, we will eliminate a major source of abused prescription drugs, and reduce the hazard they pose to our families and communities in a safe, legal, and environmentally sound way."