WHITESBURG – Harlan County residents turned in 4,139 pills for destruction during “Clean Your Medicine Cabinet Out Day” program held May 18.

Pills were fed to the UNITE “Pill Dragon” – a mobile incinerator sponsored by UNITE, Eastern Kentucky PRIDE and the Kentucky Army National Guard – at the Harlan ARH Pharmacy. Wednesday’s event was co-sponsored locally by the Harlan County UNITE Coalition.

This free program was part of a months-long effort called “Accidental Dealer” 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,” said Dan Smoot, law enforcement director for UNITE. “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 May 18 the Pill Dragon has destroyed a total of 523,292 pills.