Lee to take part in drug take-back day

LEESBURG, Ga. -- The Office of Diversion Control with the U.S. Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration wants to know: Got drugs?

If you're one of the millions of Americans who do have unused prescription pharmaceuticals taking up space in medicine cabinets across the country -- and inviting experimentation by curious children or teens -- then you're asked to join local law enforcement agencies in participating in the second national Prescription Drug Take-Back Day April 30.

Among the agencies involved in this year's take-back day are the Lee County Sheriff's Office and Lee County Code Enforcement.

"This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue," Lee Code Enforcement Director Jim Wright said. "More than 7 million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs. Nearly 4 billion prescriptions are filled in the U.S. each year, and it is estimated that nearly a third is unused, which leaves approximately 200 million pounds of drugs in homes across the nation.

"In the past, people have disposed of their unwanted pills by flushing them. Wastewater treatment facilities do not treat the water they process for the chemicals found in medication, and those substances tend to make their way into our creeks."

That is why Lee Sheriff Reggie Rachals and officers on his staff will be accepting unused prescription drugs at the Lee County Jail facility at 119 Pinewood Road on April 30 in conjunction with the Great American Cleanup, which will be going on throughout the county.

"The idea is to give anyone who has old, unused prescription drugs in their home a place where they can feel confident to drop them off," Rachals said Monday. "There will be no hassle and no questions. We just want to discard the drugs properly without people flushing them in the toilet or even burying them or taking them to the landfill.

"If people don't properly dispose of these drugs, there is a good chance they'll affect our environment and wildlife. They can bring them to us on that day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and we'll get rid of them in a proper manner. And people don't have to worry, we'll take any kind of drugs with no questions. They can remove the prescriptions from the bottles and dump them into a box we'll have available."

Wright, who accepted an Environmental Protection Division watershed award recently on behalf of the county, said Monday the drug take-back initiative is another part of ongoing efforts to clean up Lee County.

"This program is new to us, but Code Enforcement partnering with the Sheriff's Office is nothing new," Wright said. "It is always our goal to address common concerns that are in the best interest of our citizens.

"We hope this is the start of a program that can grow like our (countywide) Rivers Alive and Great American Cleanup involvement. This is an extension of our efforts to clean up Lee County."

More than 3,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the country participated in the first drug take-back day Sept. 25 of last year. The public turned in more than 121 tons of pills that day.

For additional information about participation in the local Great American Cleanup and National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, contact Wright at (229) 759-6000.