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Call Kurtis: How to Safely Clear Out Your Medicine Cabinets

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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We’ve all got them; leftover prescriptions. Now there’s a national effort to clear out your cabinets. There will be collection sites all over the country on Saturday, October 29th, which is “Drug Take Back Day.” There are a few good reasons you’ll want to drop off old prescriptions there.

Like many of us, Tara Francis has old prescriptions sitting in her medicine cabinet. Hers are painkillers her doctor prescribed four months ago, after the birth of her second child.

“I probably should’ve thrown it away as soon as I was done with it,” says Tara.

You may not realize a drug abuser may be interested in raiding your medicine cabinet.

“When you have people over and you entertain, there’s always probably a person or two you don’t know and that’s something that could very likely happen,” says Tara.

Studies show most of America’s Seven million drug abusers get their hands on prescriptions from friends and family.

“Prescription drugs provide a very important role in healthcare when they’re used appropriately. But prescription drugs, when they’re used inappropriately, can lead to abuse, addiction and even death,” says Anne Sodergren, Assistant Executive Officer for the California Board of Pharmacy.

But you don’t want to just throw pills out. They could end up seeping into the ground in landfills. And eventually the drugs could end up in the drinking water supply.

So how should you properly get rid of old medicine?

“Maybe down the toilet? I don’t know,” says Tara.

But that’s not a good idea.

“That wastewater goes to the treatment plant and gets treated, but some of it may pass through into the river,” says Linda Stevens, an Environmental Specialist with the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District.

Stevens says treatment plants aren’t designed to handle pharmaceutical waste.

“The effects are unknown, but suspected to possibly affect aquatic organisms,” says Stevens.

To properly dispose of your unused prescriptions, the Pharmacy Board recommends asking your pharmacy if it has a drug take-back program. Or you could also go to a household hazardous waste collector, which you can find in the phone book. The Pharmacy Board says there is a proper way to dispose of medications at home.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also organizes drug take back events every six months. The event on October 29th runs from 10am to 2pm. You can find a list of drop-locations at www.dea.gov.

Tara now knows her options.

“Apparently I’m not as educated as I need to be about drug disposal,” says Tara.

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