KENNEWICK -- Got drugs?
Tri-Citians who answer yes about unused or expired prescription drugs can dispose of their medications Saturday as part of national Take Back Day.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., officers will be at the Kennewick police station, 211 W. Sixth Ave., collecting prescription drugs -- no questions asked.
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna will meet with Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg and Reinaldo Lopez, the Drug Enforcement Administration's resident agent in charge from Yakima, at the station during the event.
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The Kennewick police station is serving as the drop-off location in the Tri-Cities.
Illegal drugs or hypodermic needles won't be accepted.
The Drug Enforcement Administration organized the second National Prescription Drug Take Back Day because of the overwhelming success of the first event last fall.
"We did not anticipate having the kind of response we had," said Mike Blatman, Kennewick Police Department's crime prevention specialist.
In September, five large tote boxes were filled with prescription drugs that had been dropped off at the police department.
The drugs were estimated to be worth $150,000-$200,000.
A majority of the people who dropped off unwanted medications were elderly, and some brought in medications from as far back as 1999.
Walla Walla police, which is another drop-off site, took in 103 pounds of medications.
In all, more than 121 tons of pills were turned in across the country during the September event, the DEA said.
The goal of Take Back Day is to help prevent or reduce prescription drug abuse.
Each day, about 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time, according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America.
More than 7 million Americans abuse prescription drugs, according to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Studies show the majority of prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet, the DEA said.
Anything that's prescription-related will be accepted during the event, including controlled substances.
"We don't want you flushing it down the toilet," Blatman said. "The intent is to get the medication, whether it's narcotics-related or not, out of the general public's hands to give them a safe way to dispose it."
All the drugs are collected, packaged, sealed and shipped under controlled circumstances, he said.
The drugs then are properly destroyed by the DEA.
Some counties in the state do offer places where medications can be dropped off throughout the year, but many don't take controlled substances.
Controlled substances like narcotics and stimulants can only be returned to law enforcement drop-off locations.
There are no places in the Mid-Columbia that take back unused medications throughout the year, according to the Take Back Your Meds website.
Fred Meyer, however, does provide free plastic envelopes at its pharmacy that people can use to mail back prescription drugs that aren't considered controlled substances.
Walgreens and Rite Aid have programs customers can purchase special envelopes to mail unwanted medications to a company that will destroy them.
Information on those programs and last resort disposal instructions are available at www.takebackyourmeds.org.
Take Back Your Meds is a group of health organizations, police, drug stores, local governments, environmental groups and others in the state advocating for a statewide medicine take-back program, according to its website.
* Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org