Local police departments are continuing to work together to offer residents a place to dispose of unused and expired prescription drugs.
“I’ve seen a statistic recently where we actually lose more folks in this country to prescription drug abuse than automobile collisions,” said Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. “It’s not something we talk enough about, but it’s a huge problem.”
Olens was joined Thursday by a federal drug agent, and representatives from many of Cobb County’s city police departments, for a press conference to announce that National Prescription Take-Back Day is this Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The sixth annual take-back day reminds consumers there are drop boxes at local police departments where they can anonymously get rid of any expired or unused medication.
Cobb County has five such sites.
“We live in a state where too many of our youth die due to prescription abuse, and one of the key ways that these individuals die is by going to the prescription cabinets in our bathrooms,” Olens said.
Medicines dropped off at the sites are incinerated.
“We don’t want people doing what they have done for decades, throwing them down the toilet, putting them in the trash, because by definition if you throw it down the toilet, you’re just harming our water,” Olens said.
Special Agent in Charge Harry Sommers with the federal DEA Atlanta Field Division said children are a big focus of this year’s program. He said there has been an overall reduction in abuse by 12 percent among all ages but, broken down, there have not been any changes among children between 12 and 17 years old.
“There has been an impact. However, there is still a challenge among our youth,” he said. “We’re still not getting it all done, and we still need to keep some hard work and focus on the strategies that we’re doing.”
He said it’s important for residents to turn in their old medication and have it destroyed.
“None of us want to become the unintentional drug dealer for our community and our children, and though it’s never meant, (home) is where most of the drug use is coming from,” Sommers said.
About 54 percent of prescription drug abusers are getting their medication from family or friends.
Other ways they gain access to drugs is through rogue doctors or pill mills, drug traffickers or by stealing them.
Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn spoke about the importance of local departments working with the DEA.
“The initiative is designed really to give the community a way to work with us in law enforcement and help us fight the supply of illicit drugs and the supply of pharmaceutical drugs,” Flynn said. “The City of Marietta is very proud to be a participant in the state’s effort to work with DEA on this initiative.”
Flynn talked about what Cobb officers are doing to educate children and adults about this problem.
There are programs like DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), gang reduction education groups and PAL (Police Athletic League) mentoring programs.
“All of these things we join with the schools in the public and private education systems to fight it that way,” Flynn said.
Olens also spoke about the recent passage of House Bill 178 by the Georgia General Assembly last month. It is a bill that regulates pain clinics and combats the surge of pills mill in communities across Georgia.
He said adoption of this bill allows the state to be proactive in its fight against prescription medicine abuse.
“Patients that have intractable, chronic pain need to get proper medical care and need to have pain relief,” Olens said. “(The bill) will make a huge difference in curbing this problem.”