In a coordinated effort with local law enforcement agencies, the Drug Enforcement Administration will collect prescriptioon medications nationwide on Saturday as part of its "Take Back" initiative.
During the initiative, citizens are encouraged to drop off their medications. The drop-offs are anonymous and without cost.
"We are launching a first-ever National Prescription Drug Take-Back campaign that will provide a safe way for Americans to dispose of their unwanted prescription drugs," said Michele Leonhart, Acting DEA Administrator. "This effort symbolizes DEA's commitment to halting the disturbing rise in addiction caused by their misuse and abuse."
Many Americans are not aware that medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are increasing at alarming rates, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs, according to the DEA.
Recent studies have shown that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.
In 17 states, deaths from drugs - both prescription and illegal - now exceed those from motor vehicle accidents, with opiate painkillers playing a leading role, according to the New York Times.
The number of people seeking treatment for painkiller addiction jumped 400 percent from 1998 to 2008, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Many Americans don't properly dispose of their unused medicine, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away, which are potential safety and health hazards.
"Prescription drug abuse is the Nation's fastest-growing drug problem, and take-back events like this one are an indispensable tool for reducing the threat that the diversion and abuse of these drugs pose to public health," said Gil Kerlikowske, National Drug Control Policy director and former Seattle police chief. "The federal, state and local collaboration represented in this initiative is key in our national efforts to reduce pharmaceutical drug diversion and abuse."
The DEA will collect potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs for destruction at sites nationwide from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. Collection sites in every local community can be found at the DEA website.
Other participants in this initiative include the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; the Partnership for a Drug-Free America; the International Association of Chiefs of Police; the National Association of Attorneys General; the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy; the Federation of State Medical Boards; and the National District Attorneys Association.