Boone law enforcement work to curb drug misuse in community


Ricky Barker, Columnist

After working together for more than a decade to curb prescription drug misuse, Boone Police and the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department sponsored a drug take-back event Oct. 24.  People could drop off any drugs they had, no questions asked. 

“We have partnered with local law enforcement agencies and volunteers to provide a safe place for expired and unused prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as medical equipment to be discarded,” said Garret Norris, deputy of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department. 

  Norris said a recent drug seizure containing large amounts of prescription and over-the-counter medicine was the direct result “of improper disposal and what we are up against in our local area.”

 There are six anonymous drop-off boxes in Boone to facilitate safe disposal of prescription drugs throughout the year. Boxes are located at the Boone Police office, Watauga County Sheriff’s office, App State Police Department, Blowing Rock Police Department and Boone Drug at Deerfield. So far, dropboxes have received 307 pounds of drugs, and 146 pounds just from the Oct. 24 take-back event. 

The event took place at the Sheriff’s Department and Puerto Nuevo restaurant. Boone Police officer Kat Eller organized and oversaw the event at the Puerto Nuevo location.

“The importance of this is to keep medication, specifically prescription medication, safe,” Eller said. “Safe from the hands that would abuse them or even them causing temptation from someone who has an addiction problem, to get them or use them.” 

Eller said that the drugs are also an environmental problem, with drugs potentially ending up \ into sewers and water systems. 

“My husband works for the water company here in town, and he said that they do find evidence of prescriptions and different things that have been flushed down the toilet,” Eller said.

Flushing prescription drugs down the toilet is improper disposal according to the departments. If homes are connected to Boone’s wastewater treatment plant, those drugs end up flowing into the Watauga River or New River. App State’s biology department has found evidence of drugs in male fish in the south fork of the Watauga River.  

“Any attempt to reduce the quantity of pharmaceuticals in water is a significant step towards environmental conservation,” Shea Tuberty, a biology professor, said in the drug take-back’s press release. 

According to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, the death rate for drug overdose in North Carolina was 20.4 for every 100,000 people in 2018. The Center for Disease Control ranks North Carolina 23rd in drug-overdose mortality, with 2,259 deaths this year.

“We encourage the public to use proper disposal methods such as our annual events as well as our six kiosk drop-off locations that we have currently in the county,” Norris said. “Limiting access to expired and unused medications will not only keep our children safe from potential exposure and overdose, it will keep our landscape and rivers clear.”