Residents can dispose of their expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications Saturday in Cape Coral as part of a nationwide campaign.
The Cape Coral Police Department will collect the items as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The goal is to avoid pill abuse and theft at home by properly disposing of drugs.
Removing the drugs can also prevent people from accidentally taking the wrong medication and reduces the chance of over- or under-medication.
"We have a large elderly population that had a lot of medications that are prescribed to them," Sgt. Dina Cox of the Cape police said Thursday.
Youth, like grandchildren, could mistake the colored pills for candy.
"We want to prevent a tragedy from happening," she said.
If you go
What: Drug Enforcement Administration's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day
When: Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: CVS Pharmacy, at 737 Cape Coral Parkway, E., and the Wal-Mart, at 1619 Del Prado Blvd., S.
Why: Properly dispose of expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications
Prescriptions can be dropped off between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the CVS Pharmacy, at 737 Cape Coral Parkway, E., and at the Wal-Mart, at 1619 Del Prado Blvd., S. The service is free and anonymous - no questions asked.
"We don't want them winding up in the wrong hands," Cox said.
According to the DEA, medications that sit in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Studies show that a majority of abused drugs come from family and friends, including the home cabinet.
"Data is showing that 70 percent of the prescription drugs that kids are getting are coming from people that they know," Deborah Comella, executive director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, said.
A 2010 state survey found that more than 7 percent of youths have used some prescription pain reliever without a doctor's order in their lifetime. The same survey found that 3 percent of them had used one in the last month.
In Lee County, 9 percent of the youths reported using a prescription pain reliever at least once in their lifetime - higher than the state average.
Events like the Drug Take Back Day help prevent the opportunity for use.
"It gets them from kids having them. It gets them from kids selling them," Comella said, adding that it also lowers the chance for accidental poisonings.
"If you've got expired or unused prescriptions - it's a chemical," she said. "As it ages, things are going to happen to it. This is a great opportunity to get rid of stuff that you don't need to have - it's for everybody's safety."
The campaign also provides people with a method of properly disposing of their medications, rather than throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet - improper methods that pose safety and health hazards.
"In some places, they're finding prescription medications when they test the water," Comella said.
She added that people should also take preventive measures at home.
"There's many good reasons to have prescription drugs in your house," Comella said. "We're never going to tell people not to take prescription drugs because they're giving us a healthier lifestyle.
"But, if you've got things that might be abused or diverted, it's easy enough to keep them locked up," she said. "It's easy enough to keep an inventory."
Cape police, as well as with other local law enforcement agencies, have participated in the campaign in the past. The CCPD, Fort Myers police and Lee County Sheriff's Office all participated in a Drug Take Back Day in October.
"Each time we participate, we've seen an increase in the amount that we collect," Cox said. "Oftentimes, it's a lot of prescription pain killers."
Anything in a pill or capsule format can be dropped off, along with any vials of liquid medication. Insulin and pet medications have been collected, too.
Cox noted that syringes must be dropped off at a hospital, fire station or EMS facility, where they can be disposed of properly with medical waste.
After each campaign, the DEA picks up the dropped off drugs, then weighs and counts them, before incinerating them to properly dispose of them.
At October's event, people turned in 377,080 pounds - 188.5 tons - of prescription drugs at more than 5,300 DEA-operated sites and nearly 4,000 sites run by state and local law enforcement partners, officials reported.
In the three previous Drug Take Back Days, the DEA and its partners collected almost one million pounds - nearly 500 tons - of pills.
Year-round, expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications can be dropped off at the LCSO headquarters or any substation in the lock boxes.