DEA drug take-back program starts again nationwide

(Photo: Flickr/erix)

At over 5,000 locations across the nation including here in the D.C. area, the Drug Enforcement Agency hosted "Take Back" events Saturday for people to get rid of their prescription drugs in a safe way.

Prescription drug abuse is a rising epidemic in this country, ranking second only to marijuana for drug abuse.

At the University of Maryland-College Park, nearly 30 pounds of unused, unwanted and expired prescription drugs were collected as part of this nation-wide effort. DEA Special Agent Don Hibbert says this is a rising problem.

"Were having a big problem now with prescription drug abuse, it's becoming an increasingly difficult problem just as bad as the illicit drugs we target," Hibbert said.

Prescription medicines are dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. Children and elderly can get a hold of them and taken them by accident, Hibbert says, and improper disposal of unused prescription drugs heightens the opportunity for teenagers to want to experiment if they are just hanging around the house.

Saturday's event brought out community and college students in the area who could drop off their drugs at a drop box near campus at the police department, anonymously with no questions asked. The drugs will be safely destroyed by the DEA instead of being tossed in the trash, where drugs are more vulnerable to getting into the wrong hands.

Meghan Hughes, a faculty member at University of Maryland and Greenbelt resident, dropped off two prescription bottles with unused pills today.

"I have a young child and so that's a concern also, just having old expired medications just lying around," Hughes said. "I think it's really important that people know there's an event every year that they can kind of store up those containers and take them back."

Many felt good about preventing someone else from finding and using illegally their unwanted prescription drugs if simply and carelessly thrown out in the trash.

"I've got some oxycodone and vicodin. It's all expired but obviously addicts want it. So here they won't get it," New Carrollton resident Sheryl Jones said. "It just adds to the landfill and this way I figured it will be properly disposed of. Since I've got some serious drugs, not just over the counter drugs."

Similar "Take Back" events, organized by the DEA, were put on throughout the nation, and in particular tend to target areas close to college campuses. Officials say events like these are so important because college students may be tempted to trade prescription drugs back and forth amongst themselves.

"We certainly don't want any college students being in possession of any controlled dangerous substance," University of{ } Maryland Police spokesman Mark Limansky said. "If it's been prescribed medication that doesn't belong to them, here's an opportunity for them to give it back no questions asked, just drop it off at the drop box."

But there's another concern driving this roundup. It's no longer safe to just dump old prescription drugs into your toilet to get rid of them. Officials have been warning for years that that could mix dangerously with the water supply or harm the environment.

"You don't want to poison the landfill or you know someone's garden or the bay or anything like that," Adelphi resident Tom Colclasure said while dropping off his unused prescriptions. "It's better to dispose of them properly than let it poison somebody else."

At last year's "Take Back" event, the DEA collected more than 377,000 pounds of unused prescription drugs, raking in 5,000 pounds from Maryland locations alone.