National Take Back Day: Police collect unused prescription drugs

Old prescription drugs in the medicine cabinet are fair game for spring cleaning — in fact, law-enforcement officials want to do it for you. Police departments across the country are hosting National Take Back Day on Saturday for people to drop off their unused, expired or otherwise unwanted prescription drugs.

Find a collection site near you by checking this website hosted by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Last year, the first National Take Back Day, some 3,000 sites gathered 121 tons of pills. 

The second year of the national drug collection comes as the federal government launches a new initiative against what it calls the “growing epidemic” of prescription drug abuse, especially of opioid painkillers.  

Last week, the government called for tighter monitoring of abusers who “doctor shop” for prescription painkillers and of “pill mills” — shady pain clinics — that willingly dispense the medication.

About 12,000 people died of opioid overdose in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also announced last week that drug makers of popular opioids such as OxyContin have four months to outline how they will train doctors to prescribe responsibly and how they will develop educational materials for patients. 

Part of the government’s new strategy is to encourage safe disposal of medications. After all, most painkiller users get their pills from a friend or family member, sometimes without their knowledge.  

The American Pain Foundation recommends locking up medications currently in use. Old medications can be taken to community drug take-back centers.

Or you can dispose of the drugs at home, taking a few precautions recommended by the FDA:

-- Don’t flush the pills down the toilet.

-- Pour the pills into a plastic bag and fill with coffee grounds or dirt (or anything undesirable, really). Seal it and toss into the trash.

-- Take off any labels with personal information from bottles before recycling or throwing them into the trash.

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