Got unwanted painkillers or other prescription drugs sitting in your medicine cabinet or nightstand? The DEA wants to take them off your hands, no questions asked.
On Saturday, as part of its nationwide campaign to curb opiate addiction and prescription drug overdoses, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is urging the public to drop off unneeded prescription drugs – anonymously – at 4,700 collection spots nationwide, including more than 15 in the greater Sacramento region.
The goal of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is to prevent prescription drugs from getting into the wrong hands.
“A lot of prescription drugs that languish in the home are subject to diversion, falling into unsuspecting hands,” said DEA special agent Casey Rettig, in San Francisco. “These are highly desirable products on the street (among drug dealers and drug abusers).”
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She noted that home burglaries often involve suspects searching medicine cabinets for drugs. “If you remove these items you no longer need from your home, you’re eliminating that source,” she said.
The twice-a-year event has hauled in tons of unused medications since it was started in 2010. Nationwide, about 6.4 million pounds of drugs have been collected, “more than a quarter pound of pills” for every American child ages 12 to 17, the DEA said. Among Northern California and Central Valley residents, more than 328,700 pounds of medications were collected in the last six years.
Rettig said only pills and solid drugs, like fentanyl patches, can be brought to collection sites. Liquid medications, needles and syringes cannot be accepted.
She said the dropoff sites are a better solution than flushing unwanted drugs down the garbage disposal or toilet, which can contaminate water supplies. And dangerous drugs dumped in the trash can wind up back in the possession of drug users.
All drugs collected by the DEA are destroyed by incineration in “an environmentally friendly manner,” Rettig said.
What kinds of drugs show up most frequently? “We don’t have a clue,” said Rettig, who said the dropoff is completely anonymous and no one searches the collection box to tally what’s been collected. Individuals frequently drop off their pills in plain paper bags, she said, even out their car windows at some locations.
The dropoff sites, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., include Del Oro High School in Loomis, the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library and North Natomas Library branches in Sacramento, as well as police and sheriff’s offices in Citrus Heights, Davis, Dixon, Elk Grove, Galt and Sacramento.
As of 2014, drug overdoses are now the country’s leading cause of injury-related deaths, surpassing motor vehicle crashes or firearms. The majority involve opiates, including prescription drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.