Several years ago, Broward County was considered ground zero for prescription drug abuse. Unfortunately, we became a hotspot for out-of-town visitors who would come to our county for the sole purpose of purchasing and abusing powerful pain medication. With an increase of illegitimate pain clinics dubbed “pill mills”, we experienced a major influx in the supply of dangerous narcotic medications. Throughout the last several years, increases in prescription drug abuse and its related criminal activity have brought enormous challenges to our community.
In response to this rising epidemic, the Broward Sheriff’s Office acted quickly by imposing a multifaceted approach to combat the problem, known as Operation Medicine Cabinet (OMC). The three-pronged OMC program focused on increased law enforcement efforts to target pill mills and prescription drug traffickers, educational presentations to inform the public about the dangers of prescription drugs and drug “take back” events to encourage the safe disposal of unused, expired or unwanted medication.
Over the years, our efforts to combat this problem have been fruitful, and I am pleased at the success of the OMC program. Through proactive law enforcement efforts, we have been successful in shutting down many of the pill mills that once plagued our community. As a result, the title that once haunted Broward County no longer remains.
On average in Florida, eight people die every day as a result of prescription drug abuse. As a parent, it is hard for me to fathom that many of these victims are our youth. Aside from law enforcement, efforts to curb the problem need to include education. The OMC educational presentations given throughout our community have helped to reveal an eye-opening reality about the life-threatening dangers of abusing and misusing prescription medications. It is important for parents, grandparents and friends to know that prescription drugs are easier for kids to get than illicit drugs. Most of the time, these drugs are obtained from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets, friends’ homes, internet pharmacies or from classmates. Seventy percent of teens have reported that they get their prescription drugs from someone close to them. To date, these presentations have been given to more than 10,000 people, including school children, parents, senior citizens and educational and healthcare professionals.
Many people do not know what to do with old or expired medication, or what to do if a loved one passes away, and they are left with a cabinet full of powerful medications. The prescription drug “take back” component of the OMC program has provided a means for the public to rid their medicine cabinets of unused, unwanted or expired medication. The benefit of the “take back” is twofold, providing for the safe disposal of these medications and making them less accessible to our youth. To date, the Broward Sheriff’s Office has collected more than one million pills during our monthly “take back” events.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office will also be participating in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 27. Prescription medications will be accepted at the following locations: 300 NE 2nd Street, Deerfield Beach; 5399 N. Dixie Highway, Oakland Park; 3201 W. Hallandale Beach Boulevard, Pembroke Park and 17300 Royal Palm Boulevard, Weston.
While we have seen tremendous success as a result of the OMC initiative, we know this program alone will not solve the problem. We will continue to stay proactive in our enforcement efforts and implementation of innovative programs. As a Broward County resident, I also encourage you to do your part and get involved.
- Monitor your medicine cabinets. Count how many pills you have and make note of the date you expect to refill your prescriptions. Secure narcotic medications in a safe place not accessible to your children. Be aware that kids may obtain these drugs from medicine cabinets while visiting friends or family. Restrict the availability of these substances within your home.
- Talk with your child about drug use. Help him or her understand that misused prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit street drugs. When used in combination with other substances, such as alcohol, prescription drug use can be fatal.
- Attend one of our drug “take back” events to rid your home of unused, unwanted or expired medications. Participants can drop off prescription drugs with no questions asked and receive a $5.00 gift card to local stores and/or pharmacies. For information about when and where BSO will hold its next “take back” event, please visit www.sheriff.org/omc. These events are free and open to the public.
As we continue to move forward, I believe that by working together, we will combat this problem to help make Broward County a safer place to live and work.
Sheriff Scott Israel