A police officer empties prescription medications into a bin as part of a previous National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in Huntington. Today, officials will be collecting drugs at several sites in the Tri-State.

If you plan to be out and about today, you might want to make a little side trip — after checking your medicine cabinet or wherever you happen to keep your medicines.

If there are any of those medications — particularly prescription drugs, including any powerful painkillers — that you no longer use or need, you will have the perfect opportunity to dispose of them safely.

That’s because today, Oct. 26, is the 18th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Federal, state and local law enforcement officers as well as other volunteers will be glad to take any unused or unneeded medications off your hands. The main motivation for the event is to prevent those drugs — especially any addictive drugs — from falling into the hands of someone who might misuse them.

Drug takeback days were initiated several years ago in response to the opioid epidemic that had taken hold off the country. They are spearheaded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and are seen as one way to fight back against the siege that has seen so many people — particularly in Appalachia — become addicted to powerful painkillers.

We’ve all read about the results of that epidemic, and many of us have been touched directly. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, either from illicit drugs or prescription opioids or some combination of both. That same year, 833 such deaths were reported in West Virginia, which has the highest overdose rate in the nation. Ohio and Kentucky also have overdose rates among the nation’s highest.

So why is cleaning out our medicine cabinets so important? Consider these facts:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 77% of opioid prescription medications taken by new users are obtained from a friend or relative.

62% of teens who admit taking medication for non-medical reasons say they get drugs from medicine cabinets in their homes.

So disposing of such drugs can reduce the odds that someone might misuse them and eventually head down a path of destruction.

Volunteers will be at several sites throughout the Tri-State from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today to collect those unwanted and unneeded drugs. Among the drop-off sites are the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, the West Virginia State Police detachments in Huntington and Hamlin, Drug Emporium in Barboursville, the Ceredo Police Department, the Milton Fire Department, the Ashland Police Department, the Kentucky State Police detachment in Ashland, the Hamlin Police Department, the Winfield Police Department, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office in Winfield, the Logan County Sheriff’s Department and the West Virginia State Capitol along California Avenue. To double-check for a site near you, go online to dea.gov and click on the “DEA National Prescription Takeback” link to find collection sites.

All kinds of medications, from Alka-Seltzer to oxycodone, are accepted anonymously with no questions asked.

Takeback days are but one piece of the effort to combat drug addiction, but it’s an important one that can make a difference. During last year’s October takeback event, more than 900,000 pounds of medications were voluntarily disposed. In West Virginia, just over 7,500 pounds of unused or expired pharmaceuticals were collected, including approximately 40 pounds by Huntington Police alone.

You can do your part by cleaning out that medicine cabinet.

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