Officials praise drug dropoff boxes
IRONTON -- Progress is being made around the Tri-State on prescription drug abuse, but those drugs still remain to be the No. 1 drug problem in the area despite an increase in arrests for meth and heroin, according to law enforcement officials in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.
A crackdown on pill mills brought about by changes in state laws has made a dent in the prescription drug problem, said Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson.
"The pill mills have been eradicated," Anderson said Friday. "I believe we've made significant progress on prescription drug abuse in Lawrence County. The Lawrence County Drug Task Force has done an excellent job. We've cut off the supply, but now you're seeing more illegal drugs like heroin and meth. We've had three meth lab busts in the past six months. Those pose a danger."
Sheriff Jeff Lawless has collected more than 90 pounds of unwanted medications at a prescription drug dropoff box program at the sheriff's department in Ironton in less than two months. Authorities in Huntington and Ashland are seeing similar impacts.
"This proves to me that this program works," Lawless said. "To have collected this volume of medication in two short months is amazing to me. As a result of this program our homes, our streets and our waterways are safer today.
"We've already taken one batch down for incineration," Lawless said. "With legislation and law enforcement and prosecutions, we are making a dent, we are turning a corner," Lawless said. Now that it's harder to get prescription drugs, abusers are seeking a different high, he said.
"It's disheartening to see more meth labs," Lawless said. "You have to focus on the most immediate danger at the time. A few months ago, it was mostly all pills. Now we're seeing a pipeline into the area with heroin. With meth, it is by local people."
The drug task force several months ago hired Perry Adkins, who is working full-time on prescription drug problems and meth labs. He is trained to dismantle active meth labs.
"I still think pain pills are the No. 1 drug problem in the county," Anderson said. "We see about 8,000 drug cases a year in municipal and common pleas court. Ninety percent of crimes are the direct result of drugs and alcohol."
"We're seeing progress from where it was four years ago," he said.
Capt. Hank Dial of the Huntington Police Department said the drug dropoff box in the police department lobby is one of the elements in moving drugs from where they don't belong.
"We're starting to see a turnaround, but prescription drugs is one of our largest problems in Huntington," Dial said.
Dial called the dropoff boxes, along with occasional drug take back day programs, have been successful. "The public is using it," he said. "It is emptied daily. It's been successful."
Ashland Police Chief Rob Ratliff said one drug dropoff box at the police department has been filled and another is headed that way.
Prescription drug abuse is still the top drug problem, but Ashland police are seeing an increase in illegal meth labs, he said.
"If you slow them down in one area they go to something else," Ratliff said. "When Western Kentucky was having a problem with meth labs, we were having a problem with prescription drugs in Eastern Kentucky. Now we've had a crackdown on pills, we're starting to see an increase in meth labs."