LONDON – The first Sunday appearance for UNITE’s “Pill Dragon” met with success in Laurel County over the weekend.

Laurel County residents turned in 9,763 pills on April 17 as part of the county’s “Accidental Dealer” campaign.

“This was an attempt to make it easier for those going to church to get rid of their unwanted or outdated medications,” said Dan Smoot, law enforcement director for UNITE. “We had a good response from residents.”

Pills were fed to the dragon – a mobile incinerator sponsored by UNITE, Eastern Kentucky PRIDE and the Kentucky Army National Guard – at the Faith Assembly Church of God. Sunday’s event was co-sponsored locally by the Laurel County UNITE Coalition.

This free “Clean Your Medicine Cabinet Out Day” program was part of a months-long effort to raise awareness about the dangers posed by prescription and over-the-counter medications kept in the home. Coalition members began the Accidental Dealer campaign in January.

“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.

Through Sunday the Pill Dragon has destroyed a total of 483,281 pills.