DEA 'taking back' prescription drugs

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise -- especially among teens -- and federal and local drug agents are trying to help put a stop to it.

As part of an initiative that seeks to prevent increased pill abuse and theft, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has organized the first-ever nationwide "Take Back Day" to get potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs out of medicine cabinets.

On Saturday, Tri-Citians who are looking for a safe way to get rid of their old prescription drugs can take them to the Kennewick police station, 211 W. Sixth Ave. The station is serving as a drop-off point for all law enforcement agencies in the Tri-Cities.

The effort is being coordinated by the Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force and the DEA.

Prescription drugs can be dropped off anonymously -- "no questions asked" -- from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., said Kennewick police Capt. Scott Child.

Illegal drugs or hypodermic needles will not be accepted.

Child and a local DEA agent will be on hand to answer any questions people may have.

The Walla Walla Police Department also is among the more than 3,400 drop-off sites nationwide, officials said.

"We're seeing a lot of prescription drug abuse and a lot of it is happening with kids getting drugs right out of the medicine drawer," Child said. "Pain killers are like a gateway drug ... It leads to heroin. We're trying to make it as easy as possible to get rid of them."

According to the latest Healthy Youth Survey, 10 percent of Washington high school sophomores and 12 percent of seniors used prescription pain medications to get high in the past 30 days, the state Attorney General's Office said.

The survey found 36 percent of 10th graders who abused prescription pain relievers got them from a friend, 21 percent used their own prescriptions, 15 percent were taken from their own or someone else's home without permission, 11 percent got them from a family member and just 6 percent got them from a drug dealer.

Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin said kids sometimes steal prescription drugs from their parents, or have friends who take old drugs that they find while peeking around the medicine cabinet.

"You shouldn't be hanging on to old drugs because they can be abused," Lattin said.

Take Back Day provides a way to safely get rid of the drugs because it's not safe to just toss them in the garbage because someone could find them and take them, Lattin said.

There also are environmental hazards to getting rid of prescriptions by flushing them down the toilet.

Prescription drugs dropped off Saturday in the lobby of the police station will be collected in a box that will be sealed and shipped to the DEA for proper disposal.