Nearly 1 ton of outdated or unwanted medication was collected from 42 medication dropbox locations across southern and eastern Kentucky during the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s eighth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this past weekend.

The 1,933.2 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter drugs filled 114 cartons.

This total does not include any medications brought to other one-time drop-off sites, such as the region’s seven Kentucky State Police posts, during the four-hour event.

“Having a safe way to dispose of these pills is a proven method reducing the potential for their abuse and misuse,” said Dan Smoot, president/CEO of Operation UNITE, which maintains the boxes in 34 counties. “We are pleased with the response from citizens, and encourage everyone to spread the word about this free service.”

Kentucky had the third highest rate of overdose deaths in 2010 (23.6 per 100,000 people), noted Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), speaking to participants at last week’s National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Atlanta. Ensuring the proper disposal of medication is one of the top four focus areas of the current administration.

DSC_0011-114boxesDr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told Summit participants that 125,000 lives have been lost to drugs in the U.S. over the past decade.

Every day in the United States 50 people die from an overdose of prescription drugs, according to an October 2013 report, Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, published by the Trust For America’s Health. Kentucky lost 1,031 lives in 2012 due to drug overdoses.

“There are kids losing parents. Parents are losing kids,” Frieden said. “If we took one minute of silence for each of these lives it would take 3 months.”

These deaths follow a corresponding and dramatic increase in number of prescriptions being written for opioid medications. Enough pills were prescribed in 2012 to give every American 18 years of age or older 75 opioid pills, according to the IMS Health’s National Prescription Audit.

“This means there are a lot of medications just sitting around your home,” Smoot said, adding a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA) survey found that 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.

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.

Operation UNITE has helped establish the permanent medication dropbox sites starting in October 2012. With this weekend’s collection, UNITE has now collected 6,547.9 pounds of medications.

Residents are asked to please remove all identifying labels from prescription bottles before bringing them to the drop-off sites.

• For a list of permanent drop box locations in the UNITE service region visit

• For a list of permanent drop box locations statewide visit the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy website at

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.

While totals from this past weekend were not yet available, more than 3.4 million pounds (1,733 tons) of pills were removed from circulation in the first seven DEA Take-Back Days.