Oct. 4 , 2010

DEA, Virginia Guard destroy tons of drugs 

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

RICHMOND, Va.— Under Drug Enforcement Administration escort, six Soldiers from the Martinsville-based 1173rd Transportation Company helped load three 5-ton trucks with 5,182 lbs. of prescription and over-the-counter medications Sept. 29 in Richmond, and transported the drugs to an incinerator in Northern Virginia for proper destruction as part of the DEA National Drug Take Back Day held Sept. 25. The Virginia National Guard Counterdrug program provided personnel for two months prior to the event to help plan and market the event across the commonwealth.


1st Lt. John Hinton removes a bag of surrendered medications from a truck and prepares to throw it into the incinerator in Northern Virginia Sept. 29. Hinton worked with Virginia's Counterdrug program for several months to ensure the success of the first-ever National Drug Take Back Day. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

During the days leading up to the final destruction,  the Guardsmen travelled across the commonwealth collecting the drugs from Virginia State Police Division Headquarters, who received the drugs from 83 state and local agency collection sites across the state. Over the four-day transportation mission, the Soldiers travelled with DEA escort 2,013 miles without incident.

The Virginia National Guard’s Counterdrug Program supported Virginia's participation in the first-ever U.S. DEA National Drug Take Back Day, a program in which more than 75 communities across the commonwealth provided collection sites to allow citizens to safely dispose of their medications to help prevent pharmaceutical diversion and abuse, as well as prevent their contamination of the environment due to oft used improper disposal procedures. 

“Today is the culmination of the DEA’s National Drug Take Back initiative that we have coordinated nationally…to collect unwanted, unused and unexpired medications for ultimate destruction,” said James Gregorius, assistant special agent in charge of DEA in Richmond. “Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem nationally. What we did as an agency was, we made a decision that we were going to do something about it.”

The DEA and the National Guard fostered the relationship to facilitate the program to remove the drugs from the streets several months ago, and worked together daily over the several months to make sure they were ready to collect the drugs on the day of the event and to coordinate the destruction of the drugs.


Sgt. James Mills of the Virginia Guard Counterdrug Program consolidates medications for destruction during National Drug Take Back Day Sept. 29 in Northern Virginia. Soldiers and the Drug Enforcement Agency removed over 5,000 poundsof unwnated drugs from the streets. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.


“The Richmond DEA office approached the Virginia National Counterdrug program shortly after receiving the National Take Back Day initiative, and we agreed to provide one officer and one NCO for 60 days to plan, resource, and market the event,” said Lt. Col. Charlton Dunn, coordinator for Virginia’s Counterdrug Program. “Virginia Guard personnel coordinated with other partner organizations such as the Virginia State Police, local law enforcement agencies, the Governor’s Office for Substance Abuse Prevention, the Virginia Department of Education’s Safe and Drug Free Schools program, and the Department of Environmental Quality as well as a host of non-governmental organizations in developing and publishing a comprehensive operations order for the event.”

“While our highest visibility participation was in the final collection and disposal, our greatest contributions were our operational and logistical planning abilities and our ability to work in a coalition environment through our  connection to state and local agencies as well as local communities.”

Public health officials now call prescription drug abuse an epidemic. It is the number two category of substance abuse, behind marijuana abuse which is number one. 

“Behind marijuana, [prescription drugs] are the second most abused drugs, and there’s also problems with kids getting into medicine cabinets and taking stuff they shouldn’t, or the elderly sometimes taking medications that are expired,” said 1st Lt. John Hinton, Counterdrug program officer. “Actually cleaning out a lot of medicine cabinets is very important. It brings the issue to light by doing a National Drug Take Back Day, and it also gets a lot of the drugs out of people’s homes.”

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