published Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Police collects old pills

DROP OFF YOUR DRUGS

The prescription drug collection is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 30 at 19 collection sites in the Chattanooga area, according to the DEA website.

• Direct Connection, 5896 Brainerd Road, Chattanooga

• Signal Mountain Police and Fire Station, 1111 Ridgeway Ave., Signal Mountain

• Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office West Annex, 6233 Dayton Blvd., Chattanooga

• Walmart, 525 Kimball Crossing Drive, Kimball

• Sequatchie County Justice Center, 351 Fredonia Road, Suite A, Dunlap

• First Vision Bank, 2165 Decherd Blvd., Decherd

• Piggly Wiggly, 17619 Highway 58, Decatur

• Athens Police Department, 815 N. Jackson St., Athens

• Bi-Lo, 841 U.S. 411 N., Etowah

• City Hall, 229 Front St., Spring City

• Walmart, 3034 Rhea County Highway, Dayton

• Coffee County Sheriff’s Office, 300 Hillsboro Highway, Manchester

• First Vision Bank, 2134 Hillsboro Blvd., Manchester

For additional locations, visit the DEA’s website.

Pills sitting in medicine cabinets often fall into the wrong hands.

“We see kids as young as 10 years old taking prescription pills,” said Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Van Hinton, who oversees the narcotics and special operations unit.

Where do they get the pills?

“These young kids are going to their parents’ and grandparents’ medicine bottle and they are taking out what they want,” he said.

Hoping to curtail drug abuse and prescription drug-related crimes, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will host a nationwide disposal event next weekend in partnership with local law enforcement.

The sheriff’s office is hosting another event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at 4501 Amnicola Highway as part of a fourth annual Community Health, Fun and Wellness Expo. Last year, the event collected about 160 pounds of pills, Hinton said.

The drop-off event brings awareness to prescription drug abuse, officials said.

“They are legally in somebody’s hands. They are protected drugs, controlled through prescriptions. Doctors give them for a good purpose — to restore people’s health,” said Sheriff Jim Hammond, who lost his daughter to prescription drug overdose in 2007.

Hinton said teens sometimes have “fishbowl parties” where everyone dumps pills in a bowl and passes it around, taking potlucks with alcohol. The last person still conscious wins.

“In my opinion, you might as well take a revolver and do yourself in because it’s nothing more than a modern-day Russian roulette,” he said.

Hammond recommended keeping prescription pills locked up.

“When the expiration date comes, dispose of them properly,” he said.

Brad Byerley, resident agent in charge of the DEA office in Chattanooga, said last year’s collection netted 121 tons of pills collected from 4,100 sites.

Citing a 2009 national survey on drug use and health, Byerley said more Americans abuse prescription drugs than cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin combined, according to the survey.

He said 77 to 78 percent of Americans 12 and older who have abused drugs get access to prescription drugs from friends or family members.

Hammond said prescribed drugs can be just as lethal as illegal recreational drugs.

“They get into the wrong hands through burglaries or other circumstances. They are just as deadly when they are misused as an illegal drug, meth or some of the others out there,” he said.

Hinton said from 2010 to date, the sheriff’s office has collected about 12,000 pills, Hinton said. And just this year, Chattanooga Police Department investigators seized 1,647.3 dosage units in prescription drugs, said Chattanooga Police Sgt. Jerri Weary. That’s more than a 300 percent increase from 2010 when a total of 410.5 dosage units were seized through investigations, she said.

Weary said she doesn’t know why there was a significant increase.

Byerley said that nationwide, last year’s collection netted 121 tons of pills collected from 4,100 sites.

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