Harford unveils permanent prescription drop-off box

Harford residents won't have to wait for the regular prescription drug drop-off days anymore to get rid of old and expired medication. A permanent prescription drug drop-off box was unveiled Wednesday morning to give residents 24-hour access to dump unused medication.

The drop-off box is in front of the Maryland State Police Barracks in Bel Air. The steel box will be open around the clock to give residents easy, convenient access, Harford County Executive David R. Craig said during a press conference.

"We do have drug problems, we're no different than the other counties in some sense," Craig said. "But we're at least making the admission and we're working to be proactive and working to prevent it from happening and being extended to other people."

Craig said the county is seeing an increase in opiate overdoses, although the deaths aren't always reported that way. The opiate death rate in Harford County is the fourth highest in Maryland, he said.

Edward Marcinko, of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Harford County is one of the largest drop-off sites in Maryland. He said unused, expired prescriptions lead to accidental poisoning, overdoses and abuse.

In fall 2010, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Harford County Office of Drug Policy began an annual prescription drug take back program. In three years, 11,300 pounds of unused medication have been collected from 3,300 Harford residents, said Joe Ryan, of the Harford County Office of Drug Policy.

"We recognize opiate addiction in our county was a problem," Ryan said. "Law enforcement alone will never solve the drug problem, we need family involvement to address this issue head on."

The purchase and installation of the drop-off box cost around $3,000, Ryan said.

Once drugs are dropped off at the barrack, a shift officer will dispose of the prescription drugs regularly, Lt. Matthew Kail, commander of the Maryland State Police Bel Air Barrack, said. Kail said the officers will take the drugs to the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, where they will be incinerated.

If drugs are not disposed of properly, they can become an environmental issue and infect waterways, Ryan said. Incineration is the only proper way to destroy prescription medication and residents should not flush them down the drain or toilet, he said.

In the majority of burglaries in Harford County, prescription drugs are stolen, Ryan said, adding 70 percent of children who abuse prescription drugs like benzo, Percocet and Adderall take them from a relative or friend.

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