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Safely Get rid of Unused, Unneeded, Expired Prescription Drugs

Most abused prescription drugs are within easy reach

Most prescription drugs that end up in the hands of people inclined to abuse them come from family members, friends, and home medicine cabinets.

The Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance hopes to deter the availability of such medicines with its Operation Medicine Cabinet initiative. The goal is to provide an opportunity for people to dispose of unused, unneeded, and expired prescription drugs.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, people may drop off prescription drugs at any of these Hillsborough County locations:

Brandon Regional Hospital, Brandon Medical Plaza, 425 Parsons Ave., Brandon

CVS, 3102 W. Gandy Blvd., South Tampa

Walmart, 7011 West Waters Ave., Tampa

Walmart, 1505 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa

"Prescription medications are good if they're taken as prescribed, but not beyond what the doctor tells you," says Ellen Snelling, chairwoman of the Anti-Drug Alliance's Board of Directors.

The local program is part of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, a federal Drug Enforcement Administration program. Its purpose is "to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications."

Taking prescription medicines to an Operation Medicine Cabinet location not only deters misuse, it can prevent poisoning of children and pets, stop reactions from accidental consumption of the wrong medicines, and keep prescription meds from entering water supplies when dropped in a drain or flushed down a toilet. It even can deter crime. Addicts sometimes target homes of people known to have prescription medications, such as cancer patients.

The Alliance spreads its anti-drug message throughout the year at educational forums and with literature distributed to teens and adults. Oxycodone, hydrocodone, valium, fentanyl, and other potentially dangerous prescription medications are common in the Tampa Bay area, Snelling says.

The Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance usually stages Operation Medicine Cabinet events twice yearly. It canceled an April event due to worries about spreading COVID-19. On Oct. 24, volunteers will wear face coverings and gloves, and have hand sanitizer available. Collections will take place outdoors, and people dropping off prescription drugs may remain in their cars if desired.

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