Nine hundred pounds — that's how many expired prescription pills Muscogee County Sheriff's Department officials have collected since January. And with seven months to go, they hope to double that count.
For almost five years, the Sheriff's Office has partnered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's National Drug Take Back program to collect unwanted medication. Those pills, if disposed of improperly, could easily be abused by teens and contribute to accidental overdose.
According to the non-profit Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 2,500 new children start abusing pain relievers daily in the U.S.
"What is not known by most of these young people is the risk they are taking by consuming these highly potent and mind-altering drugs," Darr said.
Pain reliever abuse also greatly increases the likelihood of accidental overdose or use of illegal substances. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported in 2008 that 19 percent of respondents said prescription drugs were easier to obtain than beer. Thirty-four percent of respondents who know prescription drug abusers said those pills came from a guardian's medicine cabinet, according to the study.
"Those pills — depressants, opiods and antidepressants and antidepressants — are responsible for more overdose deaths than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine combined," Darr said. Pills that are not disposed of responsibly also stand the chance of causing environmental harm. The Center for Disease Control reports that although no studies have linked flushed prescription pills to known health problems, those drugs are measurably present in drinking water and can not be easily removed by the cleaning process.
Sheriff John T. Darr said his office is striving to outdo their collection 2013 collection efforts, which yielded more than 1500 pounds of medication. In 2012, 900 pounds were collected.
The National Drug Take Back program encourages citizens to deposit herbal remedies, over-the-counter remedies and other medications at select Columbus pharmacies. Sheriff's officials will then collect the drugs, which DEA representatives will later incinerate.
Citizens can bring their unwanted medication — vitamins and all — to Main Street Village's North Columbus Pharmacy, Wynnton Road's Dinglewood Pharmacy, 17th Street's All Care Pharmacy and 19th Street's My Care Pharmacy. Participants can also drop off pills at the Sheriff's Office in the Government Center, using the department's year-old Drug Drop Box.