Law Officers Participate in Operation Medicine Drop
BY HANNAH SHARPE
At a young age, people learn to just say no to illegal drugs.
However, police have found that people of all ages are more susceptible to what's stored in their medicine cabinets.
That's why four Moore County law-enforcement agencies have joined together to participate in Operation Medicine Drop, a statewide program that seeks to reduce prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse by giving residents a chance to properly dispose of expired or unused medications.
Officers from the Aberdeen, Carthage and Southern Pines police departments and the Moore County Sheriff's Office will collect medications at different locations across the county today (Sunday) through next Saturday.
The campaign is sponsored by Safe Kids North Carolina, the N.C. Department of Insurance, State Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Admini-stration. It runs in conjunction with National Poison Prevention Week.
Safe Kids NC, Drug Free Moore County and the Moore Drug Prevention Task Force will also provide volunteer support at the sites.
The program offers an effective and environmentally safe means of disposal, instead of flushing pills down the toilet or throwing them away. Officers and volunteers will collect the medications and turn them over to the SBI for proper disposal.
Prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse is a growing trend that affects every age group and demographic.
Poisonings from prescription drugs are also on the rise. According to the N.C. Division of Public Health, prescription and over-the-counter drugs caused 75 percent of all unintentional poisonings reported since 1999. Children ages 1 to 5 make up 23 percent of all emergency room visits related to poisoning.
Capt. Jerrell Seawell with the Moore County Sheriff's Office has seen prescription drug abuse grow significantly in the county over the last six years. The office saw a 460 percent increase in drug seizures compared with a six-year average in 2009.
Seawell attributes the surge to hard economic times.
"Money's tight right now," Seawell said. "People are selling pills just to make money. The economy, it just made it that much worse."
Seawell added that the program also gives officers a chance to go out into the community and educate the public about the dangers of legal medications.
"People should know the risks even though the drugs are prescribed by a doctor," Seawell said. "There's a misconception that there's not that much danger because they are legal. They can also be very addictive."
For Aberdeen Police Chief Michael Connor, a campaign like Operation Medicine Drop is a chance to eliminate the source of a problem that is much harder to investigate because the drugs are legal substances.
"With marijuana or cocaine, you usually have to know someone to get it," Connor said. "But with prescriptions, anybody can get their hands on it. If you want a painkiller, go look in your cupboard."
Connor said that eliminating leftover medications in communities also reduces instances of crime - usually break-ins by people looking to steal prescription drugs and sell them.
"Drugs are everybody's problem," Connor said. "Prevention saves a lot of money, resources and time, not to mention potential victims."
Collection sites will be open all over Moore County throughout the week, giving residents the convenience of dropping off medications while they run errands. Departments also chose neutral sites, so people would not feel intimidated by having to go to the police department to turn in medications.
Seawell emphasized that officers are just trying to get the medications out of the community, not performing an investigation.
"People shouldn't be leery or cautious about dropping off medications," he said. "We won't be taking names or asking questions."
A site will be open at the Aberdeen Police Department Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Aberdeen Recreation Station will also host a site Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Connor said that his department chose to have a site open throughout the week for people who come to Aberdeen to do their shopping.
"If they bring it, we'll take it and get it destroyed," Connor said.
The Southern Pines Police Department will hold its drop-off at the Southern Pines Train Station Visitor Center on Thursday from noon until 7 p.m.
The Carthage Police Department will be at Food Lion in Carthage next Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Moore County Sheriff's Department will also have collection sites open next Saturday. Officers will be stationed at the IGA Grocery Store in Robbins, the Seven Lakes Prescription Shoppe, Cooper's Pharmacy in Vass and the Lowes Foods at Olmsted Village in Pinehurst. Each of these sites will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
You do not have to be a resident of the participating towns to drop off at these locations.
Seawell hopes to alert more residents about the growing problem of prescription drug abuse.
"It's not just here," Seawell said. "It's everywhere. It's amazing how many people don't really know about prescription drug abuse."
Despite the growing prevalence of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse in the county, Seawell is optimistic about Operation Medicine Drop. He and his fellow officers know that each pill collected makes Moore County a little safer.
Hannah Sharpe can be reached at (910) 693-2485 or email@example.com.
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