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Got Unwanted Prescription Drugs? Get Rid Of Them On Saturday

Flickr | e-MagineArt.com

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Saturday is sponsoring a nationwide prescription drug take-back event.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., anyone can turn in their expired or unwanted medications at thousands of police stations, pharmacies, and other sites across the country, including here in St. Louis.

James Shroba is the Special Agent in Charge of the St. Louis Division of the DEA, a regional office that includes Missouri, southern Illinois, and four other Midwestern states. He said there is a direct link between prescription drug abuse and the use of illegal drugs like heroin.

“First time drug users between the ages of 12 and 19 enter into that cycle of abuse by trying the legally-prescribed medications that are sitting in the medicine cabinet,” Shroba said.

According to a survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than two-thirds of people abusing prescription drugs got them from a friend or family member. Those drugs include heavy-duty painkillers like OxyContin and oxycodone.

Credit U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
This map shows the pounds of drugs collected at a national drug take back event in October 2013.

Shroba said anyone can bring in prescription medications or over-the-counter products, no questions asked.

At a drug take-back event in October, the DEA collected 53,662 pounds of medications from Missouri and Illinois alone.

“Anything that has the potential for abuse, or that may be expired," Shroba said. "We would rather see individuals turn it over to us, or at least go to one of these sites and determine whether it’s something that they can provide to us or something they can dispose of on their own.”

You can find a drug take-back site near you on the DEA's website.

Credit U.S. Food and Drug Administration

If you can't make it to this Saturday's event, there are places that will take unwanted prescription medications year-round, including some sites in both Missouri and Illinois.

It's also possible to dispose of small amounts of medication yourself. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration recommends taking the following steps

  • Mix medicines with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds (do NOT crush tablets or capsules).
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
  • Throw the container in your household trash.
  • Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, remember to scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.

Most medications should not be flushed down the toilet or drain because that could contaminate rivers and streams, and harm wildlife.
You can find more information from the FDA on safe drug disposal here.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter@KWMUScience

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