BERLIN — While the unfavorable weather threatened to be an issue, the rain and wind had little affect on Operation Medicine Drop, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) prescription drug take-back program.
The collection was the second effort this year. The previous Operation Medicine Drop, held in April, resulted in more than 130 pounds of prescription drugs being collected and incinerated.
This year, more than 200 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter drugs were collected by law enforcement personnel and environmental protection advocates. Ocean Pines accounted for 104.5 pounds, more than half of the day’s take.
Although the DEA program has been established for some time, this is only the second time Worcester County has participated on a major scale. There have been smaller, less coordinated collections in years past.
“We had a pretty significant collection,” said Dave Rivello of the DEA. “Especially when you consider the weather.”
The DEA works with local environmental concerns as a way for both groups to work toward their respective goals.
For its part, the DEA collects the drugs as a way of getting potential hazards off the street. Prescription drug abuse is an increasing concern and the effort encourages people to turn in expired drugs as well as those that are no longer being used. The collection also helps remind people to keep track of what is in their medicine cabinets.
On the ecological side, the collection is aimed more at preventing people from disposing of drugs by flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash. As the chemical combinations used to make the drugs begin to break down, they tend to leach into waterways, where they can affect the marine animal reproductive cycle and have adverse affects on plant life.
Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips credited local law enforcement, which included the Worcester County Sheriffs Department and the police departments of Berlin, Ocean Pines, Ocean City and Pocomoke, with contributing resources and enthusiasm to the collection effort.
“We’ve gone a long way toward keeping drugs out of our streams as well as off of our streets,” she said.
Phillips said she hopes to turn the annual event into a daily operation. She said that there is a chance that pharmacies some day could become permanent drop-off sites but that for now the critical part is to keep raising awareness.
Rivello credited the continued awareness about the program for helping to increase participation at this month’s event.
People are becoming more aware of the program and more conscious about proper drug disposal,” he said. “This is a good start.”
All the drugs collected during Operation Medicine Drop will be taken to a facility equipped to handle their destruction. Phillips said the drugs are incinerated an extremely high temperatures and whatever ash is left is disposed of in the proper manner for hazardous materials.
Although the next Operation Medicine Drop has not yet been scheduled, it is possible the program may be expanded to a quarterly rather than semiannual event.