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DEA sponsors first-ever national prescription drug take-back event


By Veronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – On Saturday, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is sponsoring a nationwide prescription drug take-back event.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., unwanted or expired medications can be turned in to any of more than thirty-four hundred sites across the country.

Participating locations include law enforcement agencies, pharmacies, supermarkets, and community organizations.

Scott Collier of the St. Louis Division office of the DEA said the initiative is part of a larger effort to combat prescription drug abuse. "There are actually more prescription drug abusers than there are abusers of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs combined. It's second only to marijuana."

In 2009, an estimated seven million Americans used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.

Another goal of the take-back program is to reduce water pollution.

Medications flushed down the toilet or washed down the drain go straight to a wastewater treatment plant.

According to research hydrologist Dana Kolpin of the U.S. Geological Survey, those plants were never designed to remove pharmaceuticals - and there's no law requiring them to do so.

Studies have found drugs in effluent and sludge and trace levels in rivers and streams, where they're having effects on wildlife. Kolpin said they're not the kind of acute effects that cause massive fish kills. "But we're seeing fish that have both male and female characteristics, and those kind of subtle effects are certainly a concern as well."

Kolpin attributes most water contamination to the routine use of medications to treat people and livestock, but said improper disposal does contribute to the problem.

A list of Saturday's collection sites is available on the DEA website.


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