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National event helps keep pills off streets

Apr. 28, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Looking at boxes and bags filled with unused prescription medication, West Virginia State Trooper R.N. Blankenship said she underestimated what kind of response she would see during Saturday's National Drug Take Back Day.

Blankenship was stationed at one of thousands of drop-off locations throughout the nation, and one of three in Cabell County, at the State Police Detachment along U.S. 60 in Huntington, where she estimated a little more than 50 people dropped off more than 100 pounds of drugs in just four hours.

"I absolutely didn't know people had this amount of medicine that they kept in their homes," said Blankenship. "Just one person brought in an entire tote filled with prescriptions, and it just amazed me."

Since the Drug Enforcement Agency began hosting the take back events in September 2010, more than 2 million pounds of prescription drugs have been turned in at drop-off locations throughout the country. That number doesn't include results from Saturday's take back.

DEA officials collect the drugs from the respective locations and take them to another location, where they often are incinerated.

The people who turn in the drugs ranged from people who just have cleaned out their medicine closets to people who seem to have cleaned out the home of a recently deceased loved one, said Blankenship.

She said every person who dropped off medicine had a story to go with it.

"One woman came in and was talking about how she had just lost her husband and this was his medicine," said Blankenship. "It's amazing to see how much medication these people, who do need it, have in their homes."

Of course, for Blankenship, that idea was cause for concern, especially for people who are prescribed so much medication as that makes them prime targets for criminals.

"I don't think people in West Virginia understand the pill problem to that extent," she said. "You think about the people who are abusing them, but you don't often think about the people who need it and have excess of medication lying around that makes them susceptible to people who do want to abuse it.

"Bringing the medicine they don't need here, to us, is a great way that they can assist us in making sure those pills don't get into the wrong hands and ensure they're disposed of properly."

Residents who missed the opportunity to dispose of prescription medication during the event still have the opportunity to do so by visiting the Huntington Police Department Headquarters, where there is a permanent drop-off box available during the department's business hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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