In just 30 minutes, members of the Elkin Police Department collected 3,300 pills during a recent drug take back event held in the carpool lines at Elkin Elementary and Elkin High schools.
The public will have a chance to add to that number as the officers participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 30. The department will be set up with a tent in the Walmart parking lot on CC Camp Road from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Since the Elkin department began its prescription drug take back efforts in the fall of 2011, it has collected more than 300,000 doses, reported Chief Monroe Wagoner.
He explained the department had to get Drug Enforcement Administration approval prior to being able to handle the discarded medications, which are done through a 24-hour drop box in the lobby of the police department, at two coordinated drug take back events each year and on special occasions, such as the take back at the schools recently.
“When we collect the medicines, it goes in a drop box in the evidence room. We have to treat them just like evidence. We track it, log it, keep it in a secure area until time for its destruction,” Wagoner explained.
When medications are dropped off, he said the names and prescription numbers on the bottles are blacked out, just leaving the type of medication for logging. Once the pills are removed, the bottles are recycled.
“A lot of what we get are controlled narcotics, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be anything out of date or unused — eye drops, or creams, cold medicines, vitamins. We just don’t handle sharps, no needles,” Wagoner said.
Once the medications are collected they are turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation to hold for pick up by the DEA, which then destroys it through incineration.
Wagoner said the purpose of the prescription drug take back is two-fold — to keep unused medication and the chemicals in them out of the environment and water sources, and to keep them out of the hands of children.
“When it goes in the trash, it goes to the landfill and then it goes back into the environment and our water,” said the chief. “North Carolina Riverkeepers are big supporters of the program. It is not one pill, it is 300,000 doses and multiple that by all the cities and that is a lot of environmental impact.
“When they incinerate it, it is vaporized. There is nothing left,” he said.
In addition to being DEA-sponsored, the Operation Medicine Drop event, which is held twice a year, once in conjunction with National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and again in the fall, is sponsored by Safe Kids NC.
“A lot of organizations use this to promote their mission. It’s what we all do across the state and the nation,” Wagoner said.
For the April 30 event, he said those wishing to drop off medications won’t even need to get out of their cars. They can just drive up and hand them to an officer who will transfer it to a secure holding area.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.