Local, state and federal law enforcement officials took slightly more than 1,700 pounds of unused prescription medications in Harford County Saturday during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
Joseph Ryan, manager of Harford County's Office of Drug Control Policy, said Monday that 1,702 pounds were collected from three drop sites, including the parking lot of the Harford County administrative office building in Bel Air, the Maryland State Police Bel Air Barrack and the Havre de Grace Police Department headquarters.
The drug take-back events, which are an initiative of the Drug Enforcement Administration, are held in communities across the country twice a year.
People are encouraged to bring their unused, expired medications to sites in their communities, where the drugs are collected for disposal later.
"It's great for public health, public safety and the environment," Ryan explained.
Saturday's was the seventh national take-back event since 2010.
"Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in this county," Group Supervisor Doug Ellington of the DEA's Baltimore office said in the parking lot of the Harford County offices in Bel Air Saturday, one of the three local sites where people could bring their unused meds.
"Non-medical use of prescription drugs ranks second only to marijuana as a drug of abuse," Ellington continued.
DEA personnel assisted Harford County government staff and Harford County Sheriff's deputies, who collected about 1,100 pounds of drugs from people who drove up and anonymously dropped off shopping bags filled with medications.
Ryan said 1,152 pounds of drugs were collected in Bel Air, plus 250 at the State Police barrack and 300 in Havre de Grace.
He said 1,782 pounds of drugs were collected in Harford County during the previous take-back event in April, and 1,650 pounds collected during the September 2012 take back.
Staffers and law enforcement officers took bags of drugs from residents who came to the collection site Bel Air Saturday, boxed them up, weighed them and placed the boxes in a Sheriff's Office van that was filled to the brim throughout its cargo space.
Ellington said Harford County was one of the top collection areas in Maryland during take-back events.
"That's because our citizens participate in the program," Ryan said.
Havre de Grace Police Cpl. Brian Mumpower said people brought 10 bags and boxes to the Havre de Grace collection site Saturday.
He said the collection was lighter than previous events, as the number of collection sites in Harford and Cecil counties has been expanded.
"It's the best way to alleviate having [drugs] around your house getting into the wrong hands, first of all," he said of the take-back event.
Mumpower said the event also helps keep drugs from being flushed into local waterways and causing pollution.
"It's to lessen the risk of the chemicals getting into our watershed," he said.
Ryan said the drugs will be destroyed by DEA personnel, who will incinerate them.