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Law enforcement agencies are taking back unwanted prescription drugs

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday (today) and several law enforcement agencies are participating, including police departments in Park Rapids, Frazee and White Earth.

The free service is a partnership with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

"In light of the nationwide problem with prescription drug abuse, we feel it is important to offer a place for community members to dispose of expired or unused prescription medications," said Park Rapids Police Chief Jeff Appel. "Often times the reason these drugs end up sitting around is because people are unsure how to dispose of them. By participating with the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, we are giving Park Rapids residents another option for disposal. We will collect the drugs, no questions asked, and they will be destroyed in a safe manner."

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue, says a DEA news release. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines — flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash — both pose potential safety and health hazards.

During the last Take Back Day, held in April, law enforcement agencies across Minnesota collected nearly 9.3 tons of expired medications.

Saturday's free service is an opportunity to clear some bathroom cupboard space and make the community a safer place.

"The abuse of prescription medications is not only a nationwide problem but also a local problem," said Appel. "Having these medications sitting around the house unsecured can lead to theft or abuse by persons that the medication was not intended for."

Research also shows that medication put in the trash or flushed can pollute water and harm fish and wildlife.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), studies show that medicines flushed down the drain can contaminate lakes and streams, which can hurt fish and other aquatic wildlife, and end up in our drinking water. This is because most city wastewater treatments systems can't remove medications from the wastewater. Some medications, such as hormones and antidepressants, interfere with the reproduction and normal growth of many aquatic species, including frogs and fish.

It's not necessarily safe to throw unwanted pharmaceuticals in the trash, either, because they may end up affecting the environment and seeping into the water table.

The MPCA recommends storing all medications in their original containers and in a place that children and visitors can't easily access. Sort through medications regularly, and properly dispose of outdated and unneeded medications.

Year-round 'Take it to the Box' program

Any household prescription, over-the-counter or pet medicine may be left at the Hubbard County Sheriff's drop box.

Called "Take it to the Box," the medical disposal program collects unused or expired pills year round.

"We maintain the county's only drug collection box and have it available 24/7," said County Sheriff Cory Aukes. "Our "Take it to the Box" program has been very successful, and I'm proud to be a part of it. I highly recommend everyone to take advantage of it and encourage people to dispose of their unused and unneeded medications at the Sheriff's Office. Certain medications are highly sought after and are targeted by thieves, so it is a good idea not to even have them on hand."

The collection point is a locked, metal box at the Hubbard County Law Enforcement Center, 301 Court Ave. The service is free.

Deputies periodically ferry the inventoried contents to an incinerator in Fosston, where the medicine is destroyed.

"We have made a few trips with 200 to 300 pounds each time," Aukes said.

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