Households in America now have a way to get rid of old prescription drugs, in order to prevent powerful medications from being taken by those who shouldn't be.

A prescription drug program that has been collecting unused prescription pills at specific sites and times will be expanded in October to permanent locations such as hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other authorized sites.

The program was announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a video posted on the Justice Department site.

"Prescription drug misuse and abuse is an urgent and growing threat to our nation and its citizens,'' Holder stated. "As recently as 2011, more than half of the 41,300 unintentional drug overdose deaths in the United States involved prescription drugs. And opioid pain relievers were involved in nearly 17,000 of those deaths."

Holder refers to a report from 2013 that estimated 6.5 million people in America are using prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. An estimated 70% of those who misuse prescription painkillers for the first time obtain them from friends or family, and from home medicine cabinets, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Nearly 110 Americans die each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Holder stated that the "shocking statistics illustrate that prescription drug addiction and abuse represent nothing less than a public health crisis. And every day, this crisis touches and devastates the lives of Americans from every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life.''

People can use pre-paid envelopes to mail the prescription drugs to authorized collectors. Long-term care facilities can dispose of prescription drugs for their patients.

"We know if we remove unused painkillers from the home, we can prevent misuse and dependence from ever taking hold," said Michael Botticelli, the acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "These regulations will create new avenues for addicted prescription drugs to leave the hole and be disposed of in a safe, environmentally friendly way."

This program is part of the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which was passed in October of 2010.

The Drug Enforcement Administration had a "take-back'' program which was the basis of the current program. As part of the DEA program 390 tons of prescription drugs were collected from 6,100 sites in April. Over the last four years, the DEA has received more than 4.1 million pounds of unused drugs.

"Everyday, I hear from another parent who has tragically lost a son or daughter to an opioid overdose. We know that if we remove unused painkillers from the home, we can prevent misuse and dependence from ever taking hold," said Botticelli.

This prescription collection program launches on October 9.

Photo: Steven Depolo 

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