Deputies to roundup unused drugs this weekend
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Relieving pain, decreasing anxiety, staying alert, falling asleep – there are prescription medications for just about everything these days.
And when these medications go unused they can become a target of theft or abuse.
It’s for this reason that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will conduct a “prescription drug roundup” throughout the county this weekend.
During the roundup, deputies and volunteers will collect unused prescription medications “no questions asked” at five locations in Douglas County, said Sgt. Jim Halsey in as statement release earlier this month.
“The Douglas County Partnership of Community Resources and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office are providing an opportunity for the public to bring their old medications, including pills, liquids, even unused syringes that they no longer need, to a convenient location to be collected and safely destroyed,” Halsey said.
Deputies and volunteers will accept all types of unused prescription medication, but the painkiller OxyContin and anti-anxiety medication Valium are two of the most abused medications that deputies hope to get out of people’s medicine cabinets and off the streets, Halsey said.
Abuse of painkillers often starts at home and the drug round up is particular focused on keeping prescription medications prone to abuse out of teenagers’ hands, Halsey said.
“A majority of teens who abuse prescription medications obtain them from medicine cabinets of friends or relatives,” Halsey said. “We want to reduce the availability of access to these drugs by reducing or eliminating the quantity of old medications in peoples’ homes.”
In September, the Office of National Drug Control Policy released a survey showing the total number of teens abusing drugs has gone down in recent years, but the popularity of painkillers remains high.
The survey found the percentage of 12 to 17 year olds who had used an illicit substance in the past month dropped from 11.6 in 2004 to 9.3 in 2008. The percentage of teens who reported using “prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs” in the past month decreased from 4 percent in 2002 to 2.9 percent in 2008, according to the survey.
But painkillers attracted 2.18 million new non-medical users during the past year – more than any other illicit substance besides marijuana, according to the survey.
The study describes the number of new painkiller users as “troubling,” a sentiment echoed by Jeff Catchings, task force commander for the South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team, on Thursday.
“Use is definitely up, it’s way up,” Catchings said. “(OxyContin) is just so addicting.”
“Oxy has pretty much taken a forefront in the community, more so than, say, the club drugs have,” Catchings said.
In addition to the homespun pathway to obtaining prescription medications mentioned by Halsey, Lake Tahoe’s South Shore is also one stop on illicit drug shipment routes between San Francisco, Sacramento and Reno, Catchings said.
OxyContin is attractive to dealers because each pill can be sold for between $60 and $80, Catchings said.
But the drug has a tendency to turn people into “little zombies,” Catchings said, pointing to a December robbery of CVS Pharmacy on Emerald Bay Road where two heavy OxyContin users allegedly demanded the drug from pharmacy workers.
“You find someone who is under the influence of it and they can function and can hold a conversation, but they have that blank stare,” Catchings said. “They’re out there, they can’t really feel much.”
Police arrested two South Lake Tahoe men, Kyle Shannon, 22, and Stuart Miller, 22, in connection to the robbery in January.
For more information on this weekend’s drug roundup contact the Douglas County Sheriff’s office at (775) 782-9935.