Nov. 15, 2011

Virginia Guard supports DEA National Drug Take Back Day

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen   
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

SANDSTON, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers attached to the Counterdrug Program met in Richmond Nov. 3 to load more than 9,400 pounds of unwanted drugs in two medium tactical vehicles for transport to Lorton, Va., for incineration. The Drug Enforcement Administration collected the drugs by collaborating with state and local law enforcement during the annual National Drug Take Back Day Oct. 29, an initiative encouraging citizens to surrender unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications.

 

Sgt. 1st Class Brian Wright, a member of the Virginia Guard Counterdrug Task Force, loads prescription drugs into trucks Nov. 3 following the National Drug Take Back Initiative, which resulted in 9,450 pounds of unwanted, unused, and potentially harmful drugs collected throughout Virginia. Accompanied by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Soldiers drove the trucks to Northern Virginia to properly destroy the drugs, which were collected from more than 160 sites across the commonwealth. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

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"We are here to support the DEA’s Drug Take Back,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Wright, a member of the Counterdrug Task Force. “We are in support of the DEA to pick up pharmaceuticals to dispose of them properly and we are helping by transporting the drugs up to the incinerator in Fairfax.”

This event marked the third National Drug Take Back Day, giving citizens the opportunity to turn in their unwanted, unused and potentially harmful drugs at 160 sites across the commonwealth. Getting the drugs out of the homes of Virginians reduces the risk for drug abuse, misuse or improper disposal. Studies show that the majority of teens who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. Many Americans simply do not know how to dispose of their unused or expired medicine properly, often flushing it down the toilet or throwing it away.

“The pharmaceuticals are usually flushed down the toilet; it becomes an environmental impact. Kids are able to get the unused drugs and use them at rave parties called ‘fish bowls’ and then they pick through different bowls with different drugs, and they don’t know what they are getting,” said Wright. “This is a safe way for us to take them off the street and dispose of them properly.”

The DEA Take Back Day is a significant piece of the Attorney General of Virginia’s initiative to clean out medicine cabinets and to educate the public about the dangers of drugs found in Virginia households.

“The Virginia National Guard is a member of the Office of the Attorney Generals’ Prescription Drug Working Group, which is a task we came into as part of the Governor’s office for substance abuse prevention. It’s part of a coalition to not only transport the drugs and dispose of them, but to help get the word out to the commonwealth through the members of the command and the other agencies that we work with,” said Lt. Col. Charlton Dunn, Counterdrug coordinator. “We do this for several reasons; pharmaceuticals are becoming a popular drug of abuse for youth and there’s also a lot of accidental issues with drugs that are in medicine cabinets that have been left there for years: kids get into them, older people mix up their prescriptions.

“A lot of it is being dumped down toilets or put into landfills and seeping into the groundwater and its actually coming back through our water supply system. The filters in the filtration plants can’t get it all out, so we now have trace amounts of pharmaceuticals showing up in our drinking water.”

 

Over 9,450 pounds of unwanted, unused, and potentially harmful drugs collected throughout Virginia await transportation to Northern Virginia for destruction Nov. 3. Accompanied by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Program hauled the drugs to Fairfax for proper disposal. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos on Flickr.

Click HERE to see video of the event on Facebook.

In addition to getting drugs out of the hands of Virginia teens and out of the water systems, the event also provided a real-world training event for the Virginia Guardsmen, who not only support the CD program, but also are trained military truck drivers.

“All of us here today are actually 88-mikes [truck drivers], so this is a training opportunity for us to be able to get on-the-road mileage going to a commercial facility that we normally would not have, so it also helps us with interagency cooperation and with the war fight,” said Wright.

The Guard was an obvious choice for the DEA and the Attorney General to task with the mission of transporting the drugs to the incinerator due to the availability of equipment and the Guard’s relationship with the communities the drugs came from.

“We have a synergistic effect with those other agencies because we are linked to the community, we are members of the community and our Soldiers and Airmen are members of all sorts of civilian organizations and local government organizations,” Dunn said.

“It’s an easy day when you see that you have an end result that you know that you’ve done something positive in the community,” added Wright.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for one month. Often, some of these medicines languish in the home and are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high- more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, and inhalants combined, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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