SOUTH CAROLINA (WCSC) - The Drug Enforcement Administration will hold its annual drug take-back event Saturday in an effort to keep prescription drugs from getting into the wrong hands.
"It can be medicine from an old shoulder injury or a car wreck you had three years ago," Sgt. Trevor Shelor of Charleston Police said. "And you don't know what to do with it or you just ignore it. Someday, somebody can find a way to misuse it, overdose from it, get sick on it or sell it to somebody else. And we just need those things out of circulation and to get those things destroyed."
According to local Drug Enforcement Administration agent Jason Sandoval, the take-back event is a critical part of stopping the cycle of addiction before it starts.
According to 2016 numbers, Charleston is 34% higher than the national average for heroin and opioid overdose deaths.
"It's scary in a sense that 80% of heroin users became addicted by misusing prescription opioids," Sandoval said. "It's scary in a sense that people feel a safe, secure sense about using drugs that a doctor prescribed…but they don't realize they may be going down a path to addiction."
Nikia Noisette knows firsthand that such addiction can happen to anybody. Noisette was prescribed painkillers like Percocet as a child to help manage the pain from sickle cell anemia.
"A lot of times when people think of addiction, they think of addicts, they think of someone on the street….but no, addicts are people," Noisette said.
After years on painkillers, she said she had a high tolerance and a prescription for Oxycontin developed into dependence.
"I needed it in the morning and needed it go to bed at night," Noisette said of the habit, which made her feel out of control.
In order to fund her addiction, Noisette said she started working in a drug ring where a seller told her about the similarities in the "high" between opioids and a cheaper alternative, heroin. One day, she said she found herself without pills and in withdrawal, turned to heroin.
"I never thought I would turn to heroin," Noisette said, adding she remembers the moment she "just crossed that line. I hit rock bottom in 2011 and knew I needed to go get help." She entered rehab in Charleston in 2011 and called it "divine intervention" that she was able to detox and get clean before being indicted on federal charges for conspiracy to distribute and prescription fraud. Noisette served a year and a half in prison and now hopes her story will bring hope to those trying to overcome addiction.
"They're mothers, they're fathers. They're sisters, they're brothers and this can no longer be swept under the rug," Noisette said.
"It's a high school athlete, it's a grandma who had hip replacement surgery…it's a soccer mom," Sandoval said. "We need people to be aware that these drugs are 80 to 90% chemically identical to heroin and therefore, equally as addictive."
He said the key to saving lives is awareness and cutting the supply.
Authorities say this is a chance for people to get rid of expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs. Drop off is available at the following locations Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Berkeley County Sheriff's Office: 223 N, Live Oak Drive
- Goose Creek Magistrates Office: 303 N. Goose Creek Blvd.
- Joint Base Exchange Air Base: 101 Lawson Dr. Bldg 1990
- Charleston Police Dept: 180 Lockwood Blvd.
- Citadel Mall: 2058 Sam Rittenburg Blvd.
- Dorchester County LEC: 212 Deming Way
- Harleyville Police: 119 S. Railroad Ave.
- Ashley River Fire Dept: 8045 Dorchester Rd.
- Hampton County Sheriff's Office: 411 Cemetery Road
- Walmart: 1481 N Hwy 17, Mt. Pleasant
- MUSC Horseshoe: 171 Ashley Ave.
- North Charleston Police Dept.: 2500 City Hall Lane
All locations are only accepting pills and patches, no liquids or needles.
Officers say the take-back event is free, with no questions asked.