ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office received 183 pounds of unused medicine since its last collection in November, notable both for the fact that residents are disposing of medicine responsibly and also the way that the drugs are recorded.
The last time the sheriff’s office collected unused drugs — part of Operation Medicine Drop ,which is focused on keeping dangerous drugs out of the hands of children or those who would attempt to turn a profit off of them — deputies had to count each individual pill, a process that can take up to a week.
This process could also expose officers to fentanyl, the synthetic opioid with significantly higher potency than heroin, which can be absorbed into the body through inhalation and skin contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. Though officers wear protective gear when counting the drugs, the DEA recently directed local law enforcement to weigh the unused drugs they receive instead, removing the possibility of ingesting fentanyl, which has seen a rapid rise in usage in recent years.
“It was a very time-consuming process,” said Capt. Jay Childers. “It’s a quicker and safer process now.”
This week’s medicine drop recovered 31 pounds of inhalers and liquid medicines, nine pounds of controlled substances, and 143 pounds of prescription drugs, according to Detective Terri Childers. She said the amounts vary — sometimes the drop boxes are packed full in a month and other months they are slow to fill.
Detective Childers said she wasn’t aware of any fentanyl being recovered this time around. The controlled substances that she said they see most often are Percocet and Lorcet, brand names for oxycodone and hydrocodone composites. She added that the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation now has a formula that can determine how many pills there are of certain brands based on the weight, a reversal of the previous process.
Capt. Childers said the vast majority of what they recover is cancer medications and those related to old age, such as blood pressure medication, because families are cleaning out their medicine cabinets after a family member has passed.
Drop-off boxes are available at the sheriff’s office, as well as the Rockingham and Hamlet police departments.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]