The federal Drug Enforcement Administration is joining forces with state and local police on Long Island for the first-ever nationwide prescription drug “Take-Back” day on Saturday aimed at battling the prescription drug abuse epidemic and raising awareness to the issue.
Dropping off unwanted or expired pills is both free and anonymous, no questions asked. Authorities say high-strength opiate-based prescription pain medication that goes unused and languishes in medicine cabinets is likely to wind up in the hands of substance abusers.
Many people may simply flush their unused pills down the toilet, but the chemicals often leach into drinking water reserves. The DEA will incinerate the drugs collected instead.
“There has been an explosion in the abuse of prescription drugs,” said John Gilbride, special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York Field Division. “We are attempting to combat the problem by giving individuals across the United States a chance to clean out their medicine cabinet, clean out their bathrooms of unwanted, outdated, expired prescription medicine that is just sitting there like a ticking time bomb for abuse.”
Studies have found that an estimated 2,500 teenagers use prescriptions drugs daily to get high for the first time, 63 percent believe prescription drugs are easy to get because pills are often found at home, free for the stealing. But it’s not just a problem for kids. More than 7 million adults abuse prescription drugs, a 13 percent increase over last year.
“We’re trying to get the message out that this is an epidemic, this is a major problem,” Gilbride said. “If Saturday’s effort saves one teen from abusing prescription drugs, then it’s worth it.”
There are more than 4,000 sites nationwide, 200 in New York and 70 in the New York City metro area. The program will run Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To find a drop-off location near you, click here.