West Virginia residents are “fed up” with rampant drug abuse, and proof came when they surrendered more than 2 tons of unwanted, unused or expired prescription medications across the state last weekend, says a federal prosecutor.

In southern counties, often in the media spotlight for wanton abuse of narcotic pain killers, the turnout was huge, helping the state overall to surpass last year’s collections by 900 pounds.

For instance, 49.6 pounds were turned in at Beckley collection sites, while the yield at locations in Wyoming County totaled more than 55 pounds.

“Absolutely, it’s going to help the problem,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin for the state’s Southern District said Tuesday. Goodwin cited figures from the Office of the National Drug Control Policy showing that well over two-thirds of all narcotics in the hands of first-time or occasional users originate with friends or relatives.

“That’s coming out of people’s medicine cabinets,” the federal prosecutor said.

“Anything we can do to reduce that supply is going to go a long way in helping the problem.”

Since last spring, efforts have intensified at all levels of government to deal with a drug problem that has begun to impede the business community in its quest for reliable workers.

“It’s such a monumental problem as you know,” Goodwin said.

“I know we haven’t cured the problem, but we’re taking a big bite out of it. We prosecuted well over 100 pill dealers last year and we’re on pace to do the same this year. This is something that’s hit communities and people, especially in southern West Virginia, incredibly hard. Any little bit that any of us can do is going to take a dent out of the problem.”

Among figures kept by Goodwin’s office: Raleigh Commission on Aging and Kroger, both in Beckley, 49.5 pounds apiece; Bluefield, 30 pounds; Clay, 6; Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department in Lewisburg, 86.5; sheriff’s office in Rupert, 5; Hinton, 24; Community Connections in Princeton, 27; Summersville, 14; State Police in Princeton, 29; Oak Hill, 23; State Police in Beckley, 13; Magic Mart, Oceana, 55.3; Rite Aid in Mullens and Pineville, 55.3 and 55.4 pounds, respectively.

Goodwin said he and Dennis Bolum, resident agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency, which will be responsible for destroying the drugs turned in, were pleasantly surprised at the turnout, given the soaking rainstorms that swept over much of the state.

“I thought we surely can’t go up again,” Goodwin said. “But we not only went up but we went up by 900 pounds.”

When the final tally was in, law enforcement had collected 4,795 pounds of old prescription medications.

“That’s telling me that West Virginians are fed up, that they want to do something about this problem, and everybody is doing their part,” the U.S. attorney said.

“I think that when everybody is doing their part, something good has to happen.”

©2012 The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.)