ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. N.L. Forester was at the Richmond County Health Department Wednesday afternoon taking pills.
That is to say, Forester was collecting unused and outdated medications — both prescription and over-the-counter — during a pill take-back event for Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet Day.
Forester and Laine Floyd, health educator for the Health Department, sat in the lobby as residents dropped off a variety of medicines, including opioids like hydrocodone and steroids like prednisone.
To retain anonymity of the donors, the names on the bottles were marked out.
The purpose of take-back events like Operation Medicine Drop, which happens twice a year, is to help “prevent accidental poisonings and drug abuse while protecting our waters,” according to the N.C. Department of Insurance.
Law enforcement agencies have seen a rise in heroin use in recent years, partly due to individuals getting addicted to opiods and replacing pills with the cheaper heroin.
After the medications are collected, they are taken by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation to be incinerated.
Operation Medicine Drop — a partnership of Safe Kids North Carolina, the Riverkeepers of North Carolina, N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of North Carolina and local law enforcement agencies — has collected nearly 89.2 million pills at more than 2000 events in the past decade, according to the DOI.
According to a fact sheet from the Child Fatality Task Force: “Each year in N.C. there are more than 1,000 deaths and more than 20,000 ER visits due to overdoses, representing a 350 percent increase in overdose deaths since 1999, and a 565 percent increase in heroin deaths since 2010.”
The fact sheet also reports: “About 20 percent of high school seniors in N.C. report having taken prescription drugs without a prescription, and about one in every 20 reports misuse of prescription opioids. The most common means of youth accessing drugs is through a friend or relative.”
Floyd said opiods will be one of the topics discussed at a Health Fair from 1:30-3:30 April 25.
The sheriff’s office will have another drop-off event the afternoon of April 24 at G104 FM on Airport Road.
The Rockingham Police Department is holding one Friday from noon-4 p.m. at Medical Center Pharmacy on Long Drive.
If you can’t make it to either of the events, drop-off boxes are available at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Rockingham and Hamlet police departments.