OCEAN CITY — Ocean City this week joined an innovative effort to collect and dispose of unused prescription medications that are often abused with the installation of a 24-hour drug drop box at the Public Safety Building donated by the Ocean City Elks Lodge.
Ocean City on Wednesday became the first location in Worcester County to offer an around-the-clock, seven days a week, drug drop box, providing local residents and visitors with an outlet for disposing of unused, unwanted or outdated medications that are all too frequently falling into the wrong hands and are being abused. According to Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing segments of narcotics abuse locally and nationwide.
“It’s becoming the number one choice among drug users,” she said. “The drugs are often obtained from family and friends. Most of the supply is coming from the family medicine cabinets of parents or grandparents.”
The drug drop box program, which was launched by the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), was designed to significantly reduce the amount of prescription drugs in homes that are no longer needed or are outdated. Locally, the new drug drop box installed in the lobby of the Public Safety Building in Ocean City will increase the ability of local residents and visitors to easily dispose of their expired or unwanted medicines.
According to NADDI, rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high and increasing all the time because of their relatively easy accessibility. Studies show those who abuse prescription drugs often obtain them from family and friends including home medicine cabinets.
“Unfortunately, our kids are becoming the biggest age group abusing prescription drugs,” said NADDI executive director Charlie Cichon, who was on hand for the unveiling in Ocean City on Wednesday. “We’re talking about 12 to 13 year olds. This is a collaborative effort at a community problem because it hits all of us at some point.”
Unused or outdated prescription drugs are often tossed out in the trash or flushed down the toilet, but studies have shown the disposal of medications to have an adverse effect on the environment, according to DiPino.
“There are tons of unused medicines languishing in homes,” she said. “For years, flushing was the method of choice, but that’s less than ideal. That directly harms the environment and indirectly harms public health.”
To address the problem, many law enforcement agencies, including several in Worcester County, have held prescription medicine drop programs twice a year, but Cichon pointed out those events do provide a solution for the rest of the year.
“What happens after that program ends?” he said. “What happens the next day, and the day after that when somebody wants to drop off unused medicine and they don’t know where to take it?”
The Ocean City Elks Lodge donated the prescription drug drop box now mounted in the Public Safety Building, the first of its kind in the local area, but likely not the last, according the Elks USA Regional Chairman Edward “Pete” Peterson.
“We’re going to continue this effort,” he said. “We’ve already had a number of lodges throughout Maryland interested in following suit.”
DiPino thanked the local Elks Lodge for its help in addressing the growing problem.
“Their generous donation has made it possible for us to be part of an innovative program that will get unwanted, unused and expired prescription medication out of people’s cabinets and off the streets, waterways and landfills,” she said.