Leaders have declared the abuse of opioid drugs as emergencies from the national to state levels. No community is immune.

Prescription opioid overdoses were involved in the deaths of 550 South Carolinians in 2016, underscoring the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

As much as the opioid crisis is born of myriad factors, combatting the misuse of prescription drugs by curtailing prescription lengths and drug quantities is a priority in reducing the number of affected people. Using opioid drugs beyond the time for which they are needed for pain relief puts a person at major risk of addiction, and letting such drugs get in the hands of those to whom they are not prescribed puts still more people in danger.

The situation has led to renewed focus on a fact of life in many households: There are vast quantities of prescription medications in medicine cabinets, too many of which are outdated.

Every day, prescription drugs are taken by a friend or family – or stolen in break-ins. Every day, people are using prescription drugs that are found in dumpsters and trash cans.

As much as awareness of keeping medications secure is important, disposing of prescription drugs no longer being used or outdated is more important than ever. But how a person gets rid of the drugs is important.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is encouraging people to drop off unused, expired or unwanted prescription drugs at locations around the state participating in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 28.

In Orangeburg, the Tri-County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse is working with the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office on a collection effort to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Piggly Wiggly on Old Edisto Drive. A drop box will be on site. The DEA can only accept pills or patches, not liquids, needles or sharps. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Held twice a year, Take Back Day as a national observance aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of prescription drugs, while educating the public about the potential for abuse of medication.

"Medicines that just sit in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse," said Shelly Kelly, DHEC's director of health regulations. "Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained -- often unknowingly -- from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet."

The take-back programs help reduce childhood overdoses, restrict household drug theft, limit the accumulation of drugs by the elderly, protect our physical environment, reduce pharmaceutical contamination of fresh water and eliminate waste.

Last April, Americans turned in 450 tons (900,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at almost 5,500 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in 13 previous Take Back Days, DEA and its partners have received more than 8.1 million pounds -- more than 4,050 tons -- of pills.

We join Mike Dennis, executive director of the Tri-County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, in encouraging participation in Saturday’s Take Back Day. “Help our community by going through your medicine cabinet and taking drugs to the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office collection site at Piggly Wiggly on Oct. 28.”

For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or about the Oct. 28 Take Back Day event, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/.

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