Authorities launch prescription drug 'take back' program

September 24, 2010 4:36:58 PM PDT
They're being called the new 'gateway' drugs: unused prescription medications are being abused by millions of Americans.A new campaign is launching to take back those drugs with no questions asked.

Many people get rid of old prescription drugs by flushing them down the toilet, but that can contaminate the water supply.

The take back program is a joint effort by federal drug agents and local law enforcement agencies. Officials say the program will help prevent pill abuse and theft.

Many Americans may not be aware that left over medicines are highly susceptible to misuse and abuse. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, and even from the home medicine cabinet.

"We want to keep it out and keep unused pharmaceuticals out of people's hands that may abuse it and also people that may look to profit by selling it on the street," said Jack Riley DEA special agent.

The Drug Enforcement Administration will be collecting potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs throughout Chicago on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Twenty-five police stations will have be drop-off locations. The service is free and anonymous.

"We just want to take the opportunity to get the unused meds out of the house and dispose of them in a safe manner and do everything we can to keep the kids safe," said Jody Weis, Chicago police superintendent.

The Cook County Sheriff's Department will also be collecting prescription drugs.

"Look at the percentage increase of people 12 years of age or older who have abused prescription drugs, and it is increased by 13 percent in the last two years," said Tom Dart, Cook County sheriff.

According to the DEA, in 2009, seven million Americans ages 12 years and older abused prescription drugs and every day, an average of 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time.

The DEA also says one to seven teens admit to abusing prescription drugs to get high this past year, and 63 percent of teens believe prescription drugs are easier to get than illegal drugs. According to the DEA, an increased number of teens believe prescription pain relievers are not addictive.

"If they dry drugs by time they are 15, they are likely to have an addiction by the time they are 25," said Tari Marshall, Prevention First director. "One of the fastest-growing problems is the take back program and this is an opportunity for us to raise awareness."

To find one of the 100 drop-off locations, please visit www.justice.gov/dea/index.htm.


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