WINFIELD, W.Va. -- One of the most prevalent causes of death for West Virginians is one of the most common items found in the bathroom cabinet, and the state is taking a stand to take it back.
The Putnam County Sheriff's Department unveiled its permanent prescription-drug drop box Thursday. The box, sponsored by the sheriff's department and the Putnam Wellness Anti-Drug Coalition, allows county residents to drop off unused prescription and over-the-counter medications at the department's Winfield office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to Sheriff Steve Deweese.
"I think we're seeing a collaborative effort here in Putnam County to fight prescription drug abuse," Deweese said. "I'm hoping the permanent drug box we have here will, hopefully, take away from crimes against the people, and we'll be able to see a reduction in crime here in Putnam County."
The drop box was installed just in time for the seventh-annual Drug Enforcement Administration National Rx Take Back Day, which will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Police agencies across the state and country will participate in the event, which has collected more than 11 tons of drugs statewide since its inception.
Deweese said he estimates 85 percent of the crimes committed in Putnam County are in some way related to drugs. According to a report released earlier this month by the Trust for America's Health, the number of overdose deaths in West Virginia -- predominantly from prescription pills -- increased six-fold from 1999 to 2010, and is the highest in the nation.
"Easily 70 percent of diverted narcotics, especially for first-time users, come directly from people's medicine cabinets and from friends and family; that's why it's so critical for people to get engaged and get those medicines out of their cabinets and disposed of properly," said Booth Goodwin, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Goodwin said the drop box is a positive step toward the state's goal of eradicating drug abuse. The DEA performs take-back events twice a year. During a countywide event in April, local police departments collected 248 pounds of unused drugs in a single day throughout Putnam County.
Suzan Williamson, DEA resident agent in charge for West Virginia, said the box and the take-back events allow community members to turn in unused drugs, "no questions asked," and provide another useful tool for law enforcement that promotes citizen intervention.