Operation UNITE along with Kentucky State Police posts throughout southern and eastern Kentucky will be participating in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s 9th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, September 27.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the DEA will collect potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs at KSP Post locations in Ashland, Harlan, Hazard, London, Morehead, Pikeville and Richmond.

In addition, Operation UNITE accepts medications year-round at 42 dropbox sites within its service region. For a list of the permanent drop-off sites visit http://operationunite.org/investigations/med-drop-box-sites/.

In the eight previous take-back days, the DEA and its state, local and tribal law enforcement and community partners have removed more than 4.1 million pounds (2,123 tons) of prescription medications from circulation.

“Having a safe way to dispose of prescription and over-the-counter pills is a proven method reducing the potential for their abuse and misuse,” said Dan Smoot, president/CEO of Operation UNITE. “This spring we collected nearly 1 ton of pills and are hoping to top that total this weekend.”

Kentucky had 1,007 overdose deaths in 2013, with five of the top six counties being in UNITE’s service region, according to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

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.

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.

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

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.