If you have unwanted prescription drugs, you probably know that you need to dispose of them. But how?

In days bygone, it was common to flush these drugs down the toilet, but this is no longer recommended. Decades of flushing drugs down the toilet has introduced hundreds of tons of these pharmaceuticals into the water supply. Legislation is being developed to ban this practice.

Another alternative had been to throw the pills out in the trash. But ultimately the pills wind up in a landfill and over time dissolve into the water supply. An additional problem exists when addicts scavenge through garbage and find these drugs.

At present, the best solution seems to be National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29 at select police stations in each of the surrounding counties. The service is free and anonymous.

"I encourage everyone to take advantage of this important nationwide effort to prevent medication abuse and provide a convenient and safe way to dispose of unwanted and unnecessary prescription drugs," said state Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon/Monroe).

The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Is supported by the Pennsylvania State police, local law enforcement offices, and coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Over the four National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days over 1.5 million pounds of medication was removed from circulation in the United States.

"We are pleased at the response of the American people once again, and we thank them for participating and contributing to the battle against prescription drug abuse," said DEA administrator Michele M. Leonhart.

"The abuse of pharmaceuticals has exceeded the abuse of heroin and cocaine combined," noted James Hischar, dispersion investigator with the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Scranton regional office. "Pharmaceuticals are falling into the hands of young adults and children. This is the agency's way of trying to prevent this from happening by having parents and grandparents clean out their medicine cabinets.

"It seems a lot of people don't know what to do with their expired or unused medications, especially controlled substances. Another problem is water pollution caused by people flushing them. We are starting to register amounts of drugs in the water supply. So, this is the cleanest and most environmentally safe way to get rid of them," said Hischar.

"Each division finds an EPA-registered incinerator site. For instance, in the Philadelphia division, which covers all of Pennsylvania and Delaware, they have contracted with an incinerator company in Ohio. Once all the pills are collected on Sept. 29, they will then be driven out to Ohio to be incinerated.

Asked why there is so much prescription drug abuse, Hischar replied, "It seems that the attitude of people that are abusing them feel it's safer than buying heroin on the street. You are buying a pharmaceutical, and they believe it is safer, although the addiction qualities are the same.

"Prescription drugs are used for recreation or self-medication and can lead to addiction, and can lead to illness and death, whether on purpose or accidentally."

Hischar noted that some of the most abused prescription drugs are: Anarol, Ritalin, Xanax, Valium and OxyContin. He noted that all these drugs are prescribed by doctors.

"You could read cases about doctors who overprescribe on our DEA.gov website. These doctors abuse their authority in prescribing the medication. The regulations aren't very tight on the doctor's authority to prescribe these drugs. In addition, there are robberies and burglaries of pharmacies and doctors offices."

A complete list of drop-off locations is available at www.psp.state.pa.us [1].

Here are some local drop-off locations:

Carbon County:

Ÿ Summit Hill Police Department, 40 West Amidon Street, Summit Hill

Lehigh County

Ÿ Slatington Police Department, 125 South Walnut Street, Slatington

Monroe County:

Ÿ PA State Police, 127 Parkside Avenue, Blakeslee

Luzerne:

Ÿ Hazleton City Police Department, Giant Food Store, 70 South Locust Street, Hazleton.