Home medicine cabinets have become a key target of the expanding war on drugs.

On Saturday, April 26, the Concord Police Department, along with police departments throughout the nation, will partner with the Drug Enforcement Administration for its eighth National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

"Studies show a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet," reported the DEA.

"People, including an alarming number of our youth, are abusing prescription drugs like Vicodin, hydrocodone and OxyContin. These drugs are considered opiates, like heroin, and cause a euphoric feeling," said Concord Police Sgt. Nicholas Gartner, of Southern District Command.

He said it is important that parents "educate (their) children about the health risks and legal consequences of misusing prescription drugs. Whether a person abuses alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine or prescription drugs, all drug abuse can lead to adverse effects, including incarceration, loss of relationships and employment, health risks, paranoia and even death.

"The stigma of using prescription drugs is less than other drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin because they are "legal" drugs prescribed by a licensed physician," Gartner said,

"These drugs are very accessible in the home, thus they can reach the street for illicit purposes. On the street, these drugs are very expensive and once a supply runs out, we are finding people addicted and turning to heroin to feed their addiction because heroin is fairly cheap in comparison."

Drug Take Back Day is an opportunity for the public to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs, said Concord police in a news release. People can bring their unwanted drugs for disposal to the front of the Concord Police Department. Syringes will not be accepted.

The prescription drug take-back event is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Many people are confused on how to dispose of unused prescription drugs, oftentimes flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away, both of which pose serious environmental health risks, said Gartner.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends people "do not" flush medicine down the toilet.

"Depending on the type of water system a property has, medicine that is washed down a sink or discarded in a toilet can end up in a community's drinking water and/or absorbed into the earth," Gartner said.

He said it is important all prescription drugs are disposed of in a safe manner. The "Take Back" program accepts all unused and expired prescription drugs.

"Even though outdated, these drugs are still potent and pose a risk if misused or unsafely disposed of," Gartner said.

The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported more than 6.8 million Americans abuse prescription drugs, which is more than the number of those using cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens like LSD and inhalants (sniffed household products) combined.

The availability of controlled prescription drugs along with the abuse continues. The National Drug Threat Assessment Summary of 2013 data revealed an increase of availability of controlled prescription drugs from 40.7 percent in 2007 to 75.4 percent in 2013.

In September 2010, the DEA created the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day initiative to encourage people nationwide to turn in unused or unwanted prescription medications.

The Concord Police Department participated in that inaugural event. Nationwide, more than 121 tons of medications were collected. Last year during the November Take Back Day, 324 tons of expired and unwanted medications were collected.

"Even though April 26 is the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, people can drop off unwanted prescription drugs at the Concord Police Department 365 days a year," said Gartner. "We have disposal bins set up in the lobby, no questions asked."

drug take back DAY
WHAT: Concord Police collect unused or expired prescription drugs
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 26
WHERE: Concord Police Department, 1350 Galindo St.
INFORMATION: Call 925-671-5067