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Dispose of old medications safely October 29, says AG Cooper

Release date: 10/24/2011

Cooper encourages North Carolinians to participate in drug take back day

Raleigh: North Carolinians can safely dispose of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs October 29 at locations statewide, Attorney General Roy Cooper said today.
 
Cooper, the State Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement agencies, Safe Kids North Carolina, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are teaming up to sponsor  prescription drug take-back events as a part of the National Take Back Initiative.
 
“Prescription drugs can be every bit as dangerous as street drugs when abused or misused,” Cooper said. “To protect your family, clean out your medicine cabinet and dispose of old medications at an event near you.”
 
Operation Medicine Drop aims to cut down on prescription drug abuse by encouraging people to properly dispose of old drugs that they no longer need. Cooper encouraged all North Carolina sheriffs and chiefs of police to plan prescription take-back events in their communities in cooperation with local non-profits and other groups. More than 150 events are scheduled statewide. See the complete list of events for times and locations. 
 
In March, 143 local law enforcement agencies helped collect more than 4.6 million doses of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs as a part of Operation Medicine Drop.
 
Fatal drug overdoses are a leading cause of death in North Carolina, second only to motor vehicle accidents. Some states have seen fatal drug overdoses move into first place as the leading cause of death due to accident, and preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicate that drug deaths now outnumber deaths caused by car wrecks, fueled largely by an increase in prescription drug overdoses.
 
In North Carolina alone, the number of deaths from unintentional overdoses has risen 400%, from 228 in 1997 to 902 in 2006. North Carolina is on pace to have 1,000 or more overdose deaths this year.
 
Data from North Carolina and other states demonstrate that prescription drugs kill more people than illegal drugs. Prescription and over-the-counter medications cause more than three-fourths of all unintentional poisonings in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Division of Public Health. Commonly abused prescription and over-the-counter drugs include painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs, stimulants, and cough and cold medicines.
 
Prescription drugs abuse is increasingly common among teenagers because the drugs are incorrectly perceived as less dangerous than street drugs and because they are often easier to obtain.
 
“Many people mistakenly think that because something is a prescription drug, it’s safe. But prescription drugs can be highly addictive and even deadly,” Cooper said. “That’s why it’s so important to make sure your prescriptions don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
 
According to the National Center on Addiction and Drug Use at Columbia University, nearly nine million 12-17 year olds in the United States report that they can get prescription drugs illicitly within one day and 5 million say that they can get them within one hour. Two-thirds of teens who misuse prescriptions report that they get the drugs from their home or from a friend’s home.
 
State Bureau of Investigation agents who investigate prescription drug related crimes have seen a 400 percent increase in cases over a five year period. Agents with the Diversion and Environmental Crimes Unit investigate cases of prescription drug misuse, fraud and theft statewide and focus especially on doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who abuse their positions to divert drugs from lawful use. 
 
Prescription and over the counter drugs collected by law enforcement agencies on October 29 will be turned over to the SBI for safe disposal. The SBI and DEA will destroy the drugs safely using incinerators approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
 
More information about Operation Medicine Drop is available at www.ncdoj.gov



Contact:  Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413