Prescription drug take-back event deemed successful

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, April 29, 2012

Narcotics enforcement agents stood behind the Brookhaven Police Department headquarters Saturday afternoon with about 20 pounds of prescription medication boxed at their feet.

     But the drugs weren’t seized in a sting. They were voluntarily turned over to law enforcement as part of Lincoln County’s first prescription drug take-back day.

     Narcotics agents at BPD headquarters reported local residents turning in everything from strong painkillers to vitamins. All the medication and drugs received will eventually be turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration and probably incinerated, according to law enforcement officials.

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     “That’s the most important thing, that it’s destroyed the proper way,” said Police Chief Pap Henderson. “You don’t have to wonder what happened to it.”

     Other disposal methods are deemed unsafe. Medication thrown in the trash may later be stolen, and drugs flushed down the toilet may contaminate groundwater.

     Turnout was strong, officials said.

     The drop-off hours lasted from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. After an hour, about 11 people had stopped by and dropped off their medications.

     “This is more than I expected this early,” Henderson said.

     By 2 p.m. approximately 20 people had participated in the program.

     It’s hard to compare rates of prescription drug abuse with illegal drug abuse because abuse of prescription medication usually flies under the radar, Henderson said.

     Prescription drug abusers are often “people you wouldn’t expect,” the chief said, and they’re often not discovered unless their access to medication through a doctor or relatives is stopped.

     Narcotics agents on site Saturday said most people participating in the drop-off were primarily of retirement age. The agents added they would have liked to see some younger residents disposing of medication as well.

     Henderson and other law enforcement officials such as Sheriff Steve Rushing have warned that it’s important to dispose of unneeded medication. They can be a target of theft, either by drug abusers or those wishing to sell the medication. They could also be found by children.

     Law enforcement officials said another similar event will probably be held again. BPD, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Enforcement Unit cooperated in hosting Saturday’s event.