PAINTSVILLE – UNITE’s “Pill Dragon” had to work overtime Thursday (March 31) to meet the response of Johnson County citizens to a free “Clean Your Medicine Cabinet Out Day” program.

The “dragon” – a mobile incinerator sponsored by UNITE, Eastern Kentucky PRIDE and the Kentucky Army National Guard – consumed 53,110 unwanted or out-of-date pills brought in by citizens, making it the second most successful of 23 events held since August 2010.

“We were just overwhelmed with the response,” said Dan Smoot, law enforcement director for UNITE. “The Johnson County UNITE Coalition did a tremendous job informing the public through their Accidental Dealer awareness campaign.”

Coalition members began the Accidental Dealer campaign in January to raise awareness about the dangers posed by prescription and over-the-counter medications kept in the home.

“Proper control of personal medications reduces your risk of being a victim of a burglary or theft,” Smoot stated, adding it also “avoids the potential health and environmental effects of having these substances in our water system and soil if they are flushed down the toilet or tossed in a landfill.”

Some studies have shown that 90 percent of teens that try prescription drugs for the first time turn to the family medicine cabinet or to a friend’s family for prescription and over-the-counter medications – making them an Accidental Dealer.

Aside from the fact that taking or giving away medicine that is not prescribed to you is illegal, even at small doses the potential exists for serious health effects – including death. This is especially worrisome in southern and eastern Kentucky, where the average age of first-time use is age 11.

Assisting with Thursday’s program were Johnson County Judge-Executive Tucker Daniel, Paintsville Mayor Bob Porter, Commonwealth Attorney Anna Melvin and her staff, 97th District State Representative Hubert Collins, Johnson County Sheriff Dwayne Price and his deputies, Paintsville Police Chief Bill Holbrook and his officers, and UNITE ServiceCorps members from both the city and county school districts.

Johnson County’s efforts brought the total number of pills destroyed to 427,178.