Drug Enforcement Administration

Pharmacy senior Connor Zheng sorts through and catalogues unused drugs on National Drug Take-Back Day. Pharmacy students teamed up with the DEA to ensure the proper disposal of unused drugs. 

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

The College of Pharmacy and the Forty Acres Pharmacy partnered with UTPD on Saturday to collect expired or unused medications as part of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.  

From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. outside the Pharmacy Building, students and other members of the Austin community were allowed to return any unused or expired drugs to make sure the medications were disposed of properly. The program reduces the risk of drug misuse and prevents the drugs from being flushed down toilets, which can cause harm to water supplies. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration worked with communities around the country for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Although Saturday marked the first time the University participated in the program, APD has participated in the past.             

Pharmacy professor Carolyn Brown, clinical assistant professor Nathan Pope and pharmacy graduate student Andrew Thach worked with the Green Fee Committee to receive a grant which helped cover costs to bring the event to campus.      

Brown said one of her goals for the event was to show how important it is for older adults to keep track and dispose of unused or expired medications.    

“Through this event, we want to encourage the older adults to come out,” Brown said. “This is to help encourage them to clean out their cabinets and get rid of the medicine they cannot use.” 

Volunteers for the event collected over 90 pounds of medications by the end of the day.

“I feel like this was a good turnout,” Thach said. “It was a good mix of faculty, students and community members that showed up today. One thing that helped us was the advertising we had in The Daily Texan, on Facebook and flyers around campus and at the Forty Acres Pharmacy.”

According to the DEA website, the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act in 2010 paved the way for increasing the amount of medication drop-off sites. Previously, unwanted medications could only be turned into law enforcement. As the DEA continues to make changes to its policies, pharmacies might be able to take back unused or expired medications year-round, which means National Prescription Drug Take-Back may not continue after this year.

In the meantime, Pope said the Forty Acres Pharmacy will continue to work with the DEA to keep the program running.

Daniel Chong appears at a news conference where he discussed his detention by the DEA during a news conference on Tuesday in San Diego.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — A college student picked up in a federal drug sweep in California was never arrested, never charged and should have been released. Instead, authorities say, he was forgotten in a holding cell for four days.

Without food, water or access to a toilet, Daniel Chong had to drink his own urine to survive and began hallucinating after three days because of a lack of nourishment, his lawyer said.

“He nearly died,” Eugene Iredale said. “If he had been there another 12 to 24 hours, he probably would have died.” The top Drug Enforcement Administration agent in San Diego apologized Wednesday for Chong’s treatment and promised an investigation into how his agents could have forgotten about him.

Iredale said he intends to seek damages from the DEA, and may file a lawsuit against the government.

The incident stands out as one of the worst cases of its kind, said Thomas Beauclair, deputy director of the National Corrections Institute, a federal agency that provides training and technical assistance to corrections agencies.

“That is pretty much unheard of,” he said, noting that, in his 40-year career, he has heard of instances where people were forgotten overnight but not for days.

The U-T San Diego was the first to report Chong’s account. Iredale said Chong, an engineering student at the University of California, San Diego, went to his friend’s house on April 20 to get high. Every April 20th, pot smokers light up in a counterculture ritual held around the country at 4:20 p.m.

Chong fell asleep and, around 9 a.m. the next day, Iredale said, agents swept through the house in a raid that netted 18,000 ecstasy pills, other drugs and weapons. Nine people, including Chong, were taken into custody.

Chong was questioned for four hours and then told that he would be released, Iredale said. Chong was handcuffed and placed back in the same cell, a 5-by-10-foot windowless room. The DEA said there are five cells at the facility.

The only view out was through a tiny peephole in the door. He could hear the muffled voices of agents and the sound of the door of the next cell being opened and closed, Iredale said. As the hours dragged into days, he kicked and screamed as loud as he could, he said.

At one point, he ripped a piece of his clothing off and shoved it under the door, hoping someone would spot it and free him, his attorney said. Chong also ripped away foam from the wall.

Chong drank his own urine to survive. He bit into his eyeglasses to break them and then tried to use a shard to scratch “Sorry Mom” into his arm. He stopped after the “S,” the attorney said. He said he believes Chong was thinking of killing himself.

Then the lights went out. He sat in darkness until the door finally opened April 25, Iredale said.

Chong told agents that he ingested a white powder they later identified as methamphetamine. It was not clear how the powder got into the cell. Chong told them it was not his, the lawyer said.

Paramedics took him to a hospital where he was treated for cramps, dehydration, a perforated esophagus (from swallowing a glass shard) and kidney failure, his lawyer said.

Chong was not going to be charged with a crime and should have been released, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the DEA case and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

Chong spent three days in intensive care and five total at the hospital before leaving Sunday.

“The DEA’s answer to this is: ‘Oh, we forgot about him. I’m sorry,’” Iredale said.

The top DEA agent in San Diego, William R. Sherman, said in a news release that he was “deeply troubled” by what happened to Chong. “I extend my deepest apologies (to) the young man,” he said.

Sherman said the event is not indicative of the high standards to which he holds his employees. He said he has personally ordered an extensive review of his office’s policies and procedures. The agency declined to say what those were.

Printed on Thursday, May 3, 2012 as: College student forgotten in cell for 4 days

Operational secrets have enabled the Austin Police Department to make massive narcotics seizures, including three over the past month that were among the largest in the department’s history, said Lt. Norris McKenzie.

McKenzie said that 16.4 kilos of cocaine — worth approximately $6 million— 565 lbs of Marijuana — $310,000 — and three kilos of heroin — $1.5 million — were confiscated by APD in three separate busts. McKenzie said he had never before witnessed a seizure this large during his career at APD. He said he thought the increasing size of busts probably indicates increased drug trafficking in Austin.

“This bust was pretty unprecedented,” McKenzie said. “It means that the dealers are branching out and selling more drugs.”

McKenzie said the discovery of such large amounts of heroin and cocaine indicate that Austin has become a distribution hub for Mexican cartels.

“It’s not like [the narcotics] are coming from anywhere else,” McKenzie said. “Any heroin or cocaine we seize is coming straight from the Mexican border and it is the cartels that control the entry and exit points on that border.”

McKenzie said because cartels are involved in Austin drug trafficking, it is especially important to prosecute and sentence the dealers apprehended in all busts.

“We are not under any illusions about what our job is,” McKenzie said. “We are in the drug prosecution business. We try to disrupt the flow of the organization, get the leaders off the street and make sure they spend time in jail.”

Greg Thrash, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said investigations conducted by the DEA directly indicate that the activity of Mexican drug cartels in Austin has been increasing over the past four to five years. However, Thrash said increased seizures could also indicate that law enforcement officials are getting better at catching the drug dealers.

“The DEA has seen a significant increase in drug seizures since 2010,” Thrash said. “In a large part, I believe that this can be attributed to increased cooperation and information sharing between various law enforcement agencies in the [Austin] area.”

Thrash said that the DEA has collaborated extensively with the FBI, the IRA, APD and other local police departments to confiscate more drugs and catch more dealers.

History senior Jose Nino, the president of Libertarian Longhorns, said he disagrees with the principle behind the seizures. Nino said he thinks APD’s regulation of drug distribution has contributed to the rise of cartel activity in Austin.

“This whole drug bust just represents another failure of the War on Drugs. When drugs are made illegal, they create massive black markets that are dominated by violent cartels.” Nino said. “It’s essentially prohibition 2.0.”