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October 03, 2012 | 08:32 AM

Local law enforcement agencies believe the No. 1 problem here is the abuse of prescription drugs.

"They're easily accessible," Milltown Chief Marshal Ray Saylor said of the pills. "And, they cover such a wide range of drugs."

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Hundreds of unwanted pills fill a storage tub. The pills are from residents who no longer want or need them. Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor (click for larger version)
Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye agrees.

"Prescription drug abuse is a huge issue," he said.

That's led the two men to participate in the bi-annual Take Back event sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. While the figures aren't available yet from Saturday's nationwide Take Back day, the one in April saw Americans turn in 552,161 pounds — or 276 tons — of prescription drugs at more than 5,600 sites.

From the four Take Back days, a total of 1.5 million pounds — nearly 775 tons — of unwanted pills has been collected.

"We have people dying from overdoses," Saylor said. "This problem is killing people, and it has to be addressed."

Seelye said the majority of inmates — he recently estimated 75 percent of the jail population — in the Harrison County Jail have pill addictions.

"It's truly a problem," he said. "Pills are the hardest (thing) to withdraw from."

Often, inmates say they want to quit, the sheriff said, but, during detox, they get sick so they continue to take drugs that aren't prescribed to them.

Seelye said it's easy to get a prescription by going from doctor to doctor or to a variety of health clinics.

During a 10-week Citizens Academy hosted by the sheriff's department, where one class focuses on drug abuse, some participants have told Seelye they are surprised by what length some people will go to to get narcotics for illegal use.

"Meth's still here, but the pills are the big thing," Seelye said.

At Saturday's Take Back event at the Milltown Police Dept., Saylor 47 pounds were collected in four hours.

"It was predominantly pain pills," he said.

The Harrison County Sheriff's Dept. also participated in Saturday's Take Back day.

But these two police agencies don't just give people a chance to dispose of medication twice a year. They offer disposal 24/7 since securing grants earlier this year from the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators that allowed them to purchase and install drop boxes at their departments that are available year-round.

The service is free and anonymous, with no questions asked, for those who wish to dispose of medications.

NADDI is a 501(c)(3) organization that facilitates cooperation between law enforcement, health care professionals, state regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical manufacturers in the investigation and prevention of prescription drug abuse and diversion.

Saturday's Take Back day was the second for the Milltown Police Dept. Saylor said he had more people stop by this time to discard medication than the other one.

"Last time, we had people come from the east, the Georgetown area," he said. "This time, we picked up more people from the west, those in the Wickliffe and Eckerty areas."

Many of those who participated were unaware that they didn't have to wait for the bi-annual event.

"Our goal is to have a continuous program for people to drop off their medication," Saylor said.

He hopes to enlist the aid of the media with public service announcements, as well as include the information about the drop box on the town's website and through the local substance abuse coalitions.

"This is a proactive approach to reducing substance abuse," Saylor said. "And, it also reduces the opportunity for other types of crime, such as burglary, theft and home invasions."

Another reason people should clean their medicine cabinets of old drugs, Saylor said, is because most medications lose their potency over time.

For more information about getting rid of unwanted medication, call the Harrison County Sheriff's Dept. at 738-2195 or the Milltown Police Dept. at 633-2045.

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