Operation Medicine Cabinet to be held Saturday

Article Published: May. 20, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Operation Medicine Cabinet returns to the High Country Saturday, offering area residents an opportunity to clean out medicine cabinets and safely dispose of unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter medications .

The goal is to prevent such substances from ending up water supplies or the hands of children.
Operation Medicine Cabinet will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at all county Food Lion locations, Beech Mountain Town Hall and the Foscoe Fire Department. Officers and representatives of Boone Drug will be on site to collect the drugs, prescription and over-the-counter, and medical supplies with no questions asked.

For years, citizens were advised to dispose of medications by flushing them, however, trace amounts are now being detected in drinking water. Wastewater processing does not remove all of the chemicals.

Many of these chemicals also travel from wastewater plants into rivers and streams.
The effects of pharmaceuticals on fish and amphibians and other aquatic organisms are largely unknown, but there is a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that they are a major problem, according to Watauga Riverkeeper.

A recent study found that many fish in the U.S. are becoming intersexed (male fish are producing eggs), with between 70-90 percent of fish in the southeast determined to be intersexed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In a similar study conducted by Appalachian State University on the New River directly below the town of Boone sewage treatment plant, 60 to 66 percent of two species of fish studied were intersexed.

Operation Medicine Cabinet seeks not only to protect waterways, but also to prevent prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the country.

From 2000 to 2005, the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs rose more than 60 percent, from 3.8 million to 6.4 million. More people abuse prescription drugs than use cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined, states the Operation Medicine Cabinet website.

The problem is especially problematic in teens. Among the youth, prescription drug use is second only to marijuana use, and in the past year almost 10 percent of high school seniors used Vicodin, and five percenet used OxyCotin. A spokesperson of WCSO said many of the teens obtain the drugs from their parents' medicine cabinets.

Operation Medicine Cabinet was first organized in October 2009. The inaugural operation disposed of approximately 40,000 pills, 12 gallons of liquid medication, and 2000 sharps, meaning syringes and lancets. One glucose meter was also turned in.

"It was obvious that the public is concerned about the environment and getting dangerous narcotics off of the street. I would estimate that clearly 35 percent to 38 percent of the meds received were controlled substances," said Watauga Sheriff Len Hagaman of the first Operation Medicine Cabinet. "As an example, I saw almost a whole pint container filled with nothing but hydrocodone and oxycontin."

Sponsors of Operation Medicine Cabinet include WCSO, Watauga County Recycling/Solid Waste Department, Appalachian State University, Town of Beech Mountain, Beech Mountain Police Department, Town of Boone, Boone Drug, Boone Police Department, Town of Blowing Rock, Blowing Rock Police Department, CVS Pharmacy, Drug Enforcement Agency, Foscoe Volunteer Fire Department, Food Lion, Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Helen M. Clabough Charitable Foundation, Mountain Keepers, MPrints, National Committee for the New River, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Precision Printing, Rotary Club of Blowing Rock, Safe Kids North Carolina, Town of Seven Devils, Seven Devils Police Department, Smoky Mountain Center, N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, Trophy Water Guide Service, Watauga/Avery Drug Treatment Court, Watauga River Conservation Partners, Watauga Riverkeeper and Appalachian Voices.

For more information on Operation Medicine Cabinet, call Watauga Riverkeeper at (828) 262-1500.

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