BOONEVILLE – Operation UNITE’s Pill Dragon is poised to destroy its 1 millionth pill during an appearance in Owsley County on Monday, October 15.

Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, along with members of the Kentucky Army National Guard command staff, will be on hand to commemorate the occasion during a “Clean Your Medicine Cabinet Out Day” program beginning at 1 p.m. at the Senior Citizens Center on KY 30 in Booneville.

The public is invited to bring their unused or out-of-date medications for disposal between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Rogers, along with the UNITE team, will also present the Owsley County Sheriff’s Office with a permanent medicine drop box that residents can use year-round.

“One of the easiest ways for people to help reduce the prescription drug abuse epidemic is to eliminate the temptation within their own homes,” said Karen Kelly, director of UNITE. “According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, two-thirds of teens who abuse prescription medicines say they obtain the drugs from friends, family and acquaintances, often without their consent, while only 5 percent report they get them from a drug dealer.”

The program will highlight the importance of properly safeguarding medications.

“With most teens turning to the family medicine cabinet for their first-time use of prescription and/or over-the-counter medications, take-back programs – such as the Pill Dragon – can have a tremendous impact on drug use in the community,” noted Dan Smoot, vice president and law enforcement director for UNITE, adding “proper control of personal medications also reduces your risk of being a victim of a burglary or theft.”

Aside from the fact that taking or giving away medicine 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 just 11 years old.

“In Kentucky, we are losing 82 people a month to drug abuse – more than car crashes,” Kelly said. “Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one person dies every 19 minutes from a drug overdose – more than cocaine and heroin combined. This epidemic is decimating our youth, tearing apart families, and exacting a terrible toll on communities overwhelmed by the human and economic costs of abuse.”

UNITE has held 44 “Clean Your Medicine Cabinet Out Day” programs in coordination with local coalitions since the Pill Dragon – a mobile incinerator provided in cooperation with Eastern Kentucky PRIDE and the Kentucky Army National Guard – debuted on August 6, 2010.

Since inception, the Pill Dragon has destroyed 991,383 pills.