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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Police to take part in drug take-back day on Saturday

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin staff writer

Local law enforcement officials agree that prescription drug abuse is a growing danger in the area. That’s why they are encouraging residents to do a little house cleaning at the end of the month.

Police agencies in the city and county will take part in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, in which people are encouraged to bring expired or unused prescription medications to the front entrance of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office for disposal between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The take-back effort, which began in 2010, is spearheaded by the DEA, which picks up the medications collected by local police and disposes of them, according to Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry.

“As soon as the doors close for the drug take-back, the sealed drugs are taken to Roanoke (by the DEA) and incinerated,” he said.

“Prescription pill abuse is such a huge problem ... one of the factors is people having meds lying around and they get taken for non-medical purposes,” Perry said. “This is an effort for people to clean their cabinets out ... bring them in, (and) dispose of them.”

The last local take-back event in April netted about 150 pounds of drugs, Perry said.

The event is a good opportunity for local residents to clean out their medicine cabinets without fear, Interim Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady said.

“All of us can go home and look in the cabinet and see things we’ve been prescribed and say, ‘I didn’t take all of that.’”

Perry said prescription drugs are the most abused substances in the area, the most popular being hydrocodone and oxycodone derivatives. “After that, sometimes, nerve pills” such as Xanax are popular, he said. “But the painkillers are the No. 1 by far.”

According to a release from the DEA, a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed twice as many Americans regularly abused prescription drugs than the number of those who regularly used cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin and inhalants combined.

Perry said he recently attended a drug conference in Johnson City, Tenn., that yielded some surprising information about the region including Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Pill deaths are starting to exceed car (accident) deaths, which is pretty shocking,” he said, citing 2010 data given at the conference. “I know in the last year or two we’ve seen an increase in pill deaths.”

The reason pills are so prevalent is the ease of procurement.

“Somebody goes to the ER and they hurt their ankle, and they get 30 pain pills,” Cassady said. Then, people sometimes will sell what they don’t use. “We’re making cases on people selling prescription drugs — that’s been a building thing for a long time.”

Perry noted that proving that someone is trying to obtain a prescription under false pretense is difficult for doctors. Still, “there are a few doctors out there who are a revolving door for the pill addicts.” Such practices that freely distribute prescriptions are called “pill mills,” he said.

Still, local physicians can take measures to combat “doctor shopping,” he added.

“They’re realizing it is a huge problem. Everybody’s trying to do what they can on their level to correct it.”

Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper said city deputies will take part in the take-back for the first time — at least those who are available.

“The problem has been ... it’s going to be on race week,” he said. “Some officers are going to go over there and volunteer if they don’t want to go to the races” at Martinsville Speedway. Officers who work the take-back will get comp time, Draper said.


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