Staff and wire reports
A prescription drug take back day on Saturday was labeled "a great success" by a spokeswoman for County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, who co-sponsored the event as part of the recently announced Oxycontin Task Force effort.
The newly formed multi-agency task force was created to fight the growing problem of painkiller addiction — specifically Oxycontin — among children and teens across San Diego, officials said.
"We're seeing users as young as 12," District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said at the press conference announcing the group. "The main goal of this task force is to stop this runaway train."
Dumanis, who called the growing problem an "epidemic," said the district attorney's office prosecuted 34 Oxycontin-related cases in 2007. Since last November, there have been nearly 200 Oxycontin related arrests in the region.
Oxycontin, which is derived from Oxycodone, is a painkiller prescribed for moderate to severe pain. Oxycontin is a highly addictive opiate and can be lucrative for drug dealers, said Ralph Partridge, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's San Diego field office.
Oxycontin can be sold on the street for $65 a pill — nearly twice its wholesale price, according to Partridge.
The problem with Oxycontin is that children can first be exposed to it from a home medicine cabinet, he said. Once the pills are gone, it's not hard for addicts to switch to heroin, which is cheaper, Partridge said.
Saturday's event, at five locations including the Del Mar Fairgrounds, was designed so people could drop off unused and unwanted prescription medication — no questions asked — and provide them with drug prevention and treatment information.
Erica Holloway, communications director for Slater-Price, said about 200 people came and about "20 large-sized sheriff's evidence boxes of pill bottles, prescription liquids and needles" were collected.
Holloway said it would be determined this week just how many pounds of drugs were collected.
"This is the first time in San Diego County people had the opportunity to clean out their medicine cabinets," she noted.
There will likely be other such events. "Every response from people who showed up tells us we have to do this again," she said.
City News Service contributed to this report.