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Saturday was National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, a time to safely dispose of medicines that are no longer needed.

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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-inspired event featured locations manned by officers at which people could bring medications – no questions asked.

Getting unneeded medicines out of the household mix can be important.

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“There’s no question that South Carolina has an opioid crisis and this is a way anyone with unused opioids can fight that,” S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said. “We know that most people who are prescribed opioids don’t use all of them. We also know that most people who start using heroin did so after first becoming addicted to prescription opioids.”

According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, unused or expired prescription medications are a public safety issue that can lead to potential accidental poisoning, misuse or overdose. Studies show that over half of abused prescription drugs are obtained -- often unknowingly -- from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

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

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But what if you did not participate on Saturday? What do you do if you wish to get rid of old drugs?

The U.S. Food and Drugs Administration advises first to follow disposal instructions in the product package insert. If that is not available and you simply don’t know what to do, follow these steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

• Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, cat litter or used coffee grounds.

• Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.

• Throw the container in your household trash.

• Delete all personal information on the prescription label of empty pill bottles or medicine packaging, then dispose of the container.

A small number of medicines have specific instructions to immediately flush down the toilet when no longer needed. These medicines may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal with just one dose if they are used by someone other than the person for whom they were prescribed.

South Carolina has a crisis with the abuse of drugs, particularly opioids. From 2017 to 2018, the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths increased by 9% (748 to 816), according to DHEC data. Disposing of old prescription drugs is one way everyone can be a part of preventing another tragedy.

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