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St. Louis-area police to collect old medications — no questions asked

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents of the St. Louis region will be able to discard unwanted and expired prescription drugs at dozens of local police departments this Saturday.

The twice-yearly “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day,” which is held in cities across the country, aims to reduce prescription drug abuse. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which spearheads the program, estimates they have collected more than 9.9 million pounds of prescription drugs since 2010.

Brandon Costerison, with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse in St. Louis, said many people feel “helpless and confused” when it comes to safely disposing prescription drugs.

Flushing prescription drugs down the toilet contaminates rivers, lakes and drinking water. Experts also caution against chucking medications in the trash, where young children may find them and eat them by accident.

Without a convenient way to dispose of medications, Costerison said, people may tuck them away in their medicine cabinets, where they can fall into the wrong hands.

“Most folks are not aware of when a friend or family member has a substance use disorder and they can inadvertently contribute to it by having these medications accessible,” he said.

Of the estimated 10.7 million people who misuse prescription pain relievers each year, more than half report they obtained the drugs from a friend or family member.

Amy Tiemeier, associate professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, said discarding old or unneeded prescription drugs can also help prevent accidental poisoning.

“The less medicine you have in your house, the less chance you’ll have a child or pet that gets into it,” Tiemeier said. “You may even have an older adult in the house who might try to take a medication in the night and accidentally take the wrong thing.”

The DEA drug take back program, which began in 2008, is free and anonymous. Residents are encouraged to drop off pills and patches at approved locations — no questions asked.

The program is not able to accept needles, sharps or liquid medications.

Residents who miss Drug Take Back Day can also discard prescription drugs anonymously at permanent medication disposal sites in the St. Louis area.

If you go:

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Where: St. Louis-area police departments, list available here

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday October 27

Cost: Free

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or locally The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse- St. Louis Area (NCADA) at 314-962-3456.

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan

Shahla Farzan is a PhD ecologist and science podcast editor at American Public Media. She was previously a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.