The North Carolina Department of Insurance is encouraging everyone to do some spring cleaning in their medicine cabinets. Operation Medicine Drop is looking for unused pills, especially pain killers, to be delivered to secure collection sites.
The department is collecting unused medications at secure drop boxes across the state this week.
Experimentation with unused opioids has spurred a public health crisis, despite government restrictions on the prescription of addictive painkillers, according to Chief State Fire Marshal Brian Taylor.
“It's more difficult to access those medications form your local doctors,” Taylor said. “Now, people are resorting to going to homes and people that may have leftover medications and either using or selling those medications.”
Taylor said flushing these drugs contaminates local water supplies. Instead, he asks everyone to take unused medications to a secure drop box at a local law enforcement office. A database of Operation Medicine Drop collection sites is at NCDOI.com.
Taylor said the project gathered more than 1,100 pounds of medication at North Hills in Raleigh on Monday alone. He said keeping meds around the house increases the risk that they'll be used recreationally, which contributes to the opioid crisis.
“It's basically to prevent this medication getting into the wrong hands,” he said. “Because, of course, these medications are of value on the street. And, of course, young teenagers could become addictive (sic) if it got into the wrong hands.”
Taylor said the State Bureau of Investigation gathers medications from the drop boxes and incinerates them. In all, the annual initiative has collected 89 million pills since 2010.
“With the restraints now on pharmacies and doctors... prescribing those medications are more difficult to access, people are now going to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to access,” he said.
Taylor says the objective is to prevent substance dependence by restricting access in the first place.