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Police accept unused prescription drugs

Saturday - 4/27/2013, 11:49pm  ET

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Lana Soward drops off four kitchen trashbags full of old prescriptions Saturday during a Drug Take-Back event in Lake Ridge. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

LAKE RIDGE, Va. - It's a scene that was playing out in Maryland, D.C., Virginia and across the nation: people getting rid of old prescription medications safely.

On Saturday morning, you could hear the sound of plastic medicine bottles flowing into cardboard collection boxes.

Sentara health center in Lake Ridge was one of thousands of drop-off sites across the country for the sixth Drug Take-Back Day.

That's where Lana Soward and her mom, of Lorton, dropped off four kitchen trash bags full of old prescriptions, which belonged to her late father.

"We've been waiting over a year to donate them," Soward says.

Helen, who didn't want to give her last name, came to dispose of unneeded medication properly to protect the environment. But as the mother of a 16-year-old she has another more pressing reason to participate.

"I don't like leaving it around the house with a teenager in the house so nothing is tempting," she says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 7 million Americans over the age of 12 reported abusing prescription drugs in a one month period. Studies show that prescription drug abuse in the U.S. is at an alarmingly high rate and the family medicine cabinet is an easy way to score drugs.

"That is why we have such a big push and get so much cooperation from the state and local officers as well," says Arthur Miller, Drug Enforcement Administration supervisory special agent. He was overseeing the drug collection at the Sentara location.

He says one of the main goals of the Drug Take Back is to keep the drugs out of the hands of teens.

Miller says the first year of the initiative was a little slow. But three years later that's changed.

"The turnout is great and getting better every year," he says.

In addition to keeping the drugs out of the hands of kids, the massive drug collection helps keep these chemicals out of our water system.

During the fall prescription drug "Take-Back" in September more than 1,080 pounds of medicines were collected in Prince William County. In total, Americans dropped off 244 tons of expired and unwanted prescription drugs last fall.

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