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By David R. Shorey

Photo credit:  CC by SA

East County Program Manager, Institute for Public Strategies

April 1, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) - If you were to open my medicine cabinet today, you would probably find a few bottles of prescription medication that I stopped using or didn’t need to finish. Perhaps I’ve forgotten I have them for pain medication, or I might be saving them for an “emergency.” Unfortunately, the availability of excess medication contributes to the problem with prescription medication abuse in the United States.

To help reduce this, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is coming April 27, 2019 and East County residents can participate by properly disposing of unwanted prescription medications and other drugs.

One of the groups we see impacted by prescription drug abuse are teenagers who obtain prescription drugs for abuse by stealing them from a home, often from a medicine cabinet, or by getting them from someone selling the pills. Many of the teens perceive taking medications that are prescribed from a doctor to be “safer” than street drugs because of their medical use. But use of these drugs can cause significant harm including death. Clearing out unwanted medicine is one way to prevent abuse.

Disposing of unused medication can be a bit tricky too. Medicines that are flushed or poured down the drain can end up polluting our waters, impacting aquatic species, and contaminating our food and water supplies. Most medicines are not removed by wastewater treatment plants or septic systems.

In a recent study in the Pacific Northwest, scientists have found medicines in surface, ground and marine waters as well as soils and sediments. Once medications get into the food chain, even at very low levels, they can have significant impact on the environment.

Additionally, throwing away medication in the trash doesn’t provide the same safeguards that professional disposal can offer. Medicines are a special type of hazardous chemical that we need to keep out of our solid waste system and landfills to prevent harm to people and the environment.

Similar to restrictions on the disposal of used motor oil or leftover paint thinner in the trash, medication disposal guidelines say we should not put these extremely potent pharmaceutical chemicals into landfills.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a day for everyone in the East County to come together and do their part to fight the opioid crisis, simply by disposing of unwanted prescription medications from their medicine cabinets. This event goes a long way toward fighting the abuse of prescription drugs that is fueling a national opioid epidemic.

More than 457 tons of drugs were turned in during National Take Back Day in October 2018 at 5,839 sites throughout the United States. Law enforcement personnel from 4,770 agencies participated. The program, which is held in April and October every year, was launched by the DEA in 2010 to address the public safety and health issues surrounding unused medication.

With the opioid crisis in the United States growing, law enforcement officials and drug abuse prevention professionals want to do their part in keeping prescription drugs out of the hands of children as well as keeping them out of our water supply.

Law enforcement personnel will be at several East County locations to collect unwanted prescription drugs. Residents may drop off both prescription and over-the-counter medication, no questions asked. Labels and other identifying information should be removed from medication containers prior to drop-off.

The following East County locations are scheduled to participate in the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 27, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

w Alpine Sheriff’s Station, 2751 Alpine Blvd., Alpine

w El Cajon Police Department, 100 Civic Center Way, El Cajon

w Walgreens Parking Lot, 9728 Winter Gardens Blvd., Lakeside

w La Mesa Police Department, 8085 University Ave., La Mesa

w Lemon Grove Sheriff’s Station, 3240 Main St., Lemon Grove

w Walgreens Parking Lot, 9305 Mission Gorge Road, Santee

w Rancho San Diego Sheriff's Station, 11486 Campo Road, Spring Valley

Year-round drop-off sites are posted on the DEA’s web site

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