In just a single day, citizens across southern and eastern Kentucky have doubled the amount of unwanted or unused medications returned for safe disposal.

On Saturday, April 27, Operation UNITE partnered with local anti-drug coalitions, the Kentucky State Police, and local law enforcement agencies for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s sixth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

During the four-hour take-back event, 1,171.2 pounds of medications were collected at UNITE locations across its 32-county service region. In addition, 67.8 pounds of medicine was dropped off at the Kentucky State Police posts in London and Harlan.

Six special drop-off sites were set up at Food City pharmacy locations in five counties for Saturday’s initiative.

Anyone unable to bring their medications over the weekend may continue to safely dispose of them throughout the year. Operation UNITE, along with other agencies, have placed permanent medication drop boxes at 34 locations across southern and eastern Kentucky. A list of these drop-off sites is available on the UNITE website. View list of locations.

Since October 1, 2012, UNITE has now collected 1,673.2 pounds of medications from these drop boxes. This is in addition to more than 1 million pills destroyed as a result of community take-back days held during the previous two years.

In Kentucky, 7,171 pounds of medications were collected at 92 sites.

“We were extremely pleased with the response of citizens in our part of the commonwealth to this initiative, which addresses a vital public safety and public health issue,” said Dan Smoot, vice president of UNITE. “Word is spreading that having unsecured prescription and over-the-counter drugs around the home makes them susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse.”

According to the 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 70 percent of people abusing prescription pain relievers got them through friends or relatives, a statistic that includes raiding the family medicine cabinet.

Medications, mostly prescription drugs, were involved in nearly 60 percent of the 38,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2010, overshadowing those from illicit narcotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another benefit of the drop-box program is protecting the environment.

For years, the generally accepted method for disposing of old or left over medications was to flush them down the toilet. This practice, however, has been strongly discouraged because of concerns about potential health and environmental effects of antibiotics, hormones, painkillers, depressants and stimulants making their way into our water system and soil.

The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which began in October 2010, aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposal, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of these medications.

On April 27, 2013, 742,497 pounds (371 tons) of prescription medications were collected from members of the public at more than 5,829 locations manned by 4,312 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies across the nation that partnered with DEA on the event. When added to the collections from DEA’s previous five Take-Back events, more than 2.8 million pounds (1,409 tons) of prescription medications have been removed from circulation.