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The Green Life: Tomorrow: The DEA Will Take Your Drugs

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April 29, 2011

Tomorrow: The DEA Will Take Your Drugs

PillsTime to clean out cabinets and rifle through drawers: If you've got unused or expired prescription drugs, now's your chance to get rid of them.


The Drug Enforcement Administration hosts its second National Take-Back Initiative tomorrow from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. local time at more than 5,100 sites across America. Grocery stores, parks, pet-adoption centers, and more will open, under the scrutiny of local law enforcement, to accept unwanted prescription medications of any kind so they can be disposed of properly, safely, and (we hope) eco-consciously.

“Unused or expired prescription medications that are languishing in the home are a public-safety issue, which can lead to accidental poisoning, overuse, or abuse,” said DEA spokesperson Casey McEnry. And don't worry if you're trying to discretely dispose of a dubious pill bottle left behind by your shady college pal: The take-back day is completely anonymous, McEnry said.

Unfortunately, homes aren't the only place prescription drugs are languishing: According to the EPA, dissolved medication frequently ends up in waterways, including drinking-water sources, where it can cause harm. For that reason, the DEA delivers the meds to EPA-operated incinerators, where they go up in smoke instead.

Giving your drugs to the DEA to be burned does seem eco-friendlier than the EPA's recommendation for how to get rid of them yourself, a process that involves cat litter, coffee grounds, and trash dumpsters.

This is the second such day to be hosted by the DEA, but a federal law passed last September will, once it goes into effect, allow old or unused drugs to be dropped off to local law-enforcement personnel risk-free at all times, McEnry said. Until then, check out the list of take-back sites nationwide to find a place to take your pills tomorrow. 

--Tim McDonnell

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