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Drug Take-Back Day scheduled for Saturday in Mt. Pleasant

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Prescription drugs that are thrown away or flushed down the toilet can leech into water supplies, according to environmental experts.

Homeowners who keep drugs that are expired or no longer needed put themselves at risk for burglary and theft, according to officials at the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

That's why the group created a program in 2010 to remove potentially dangerous controlled substances from medicine cabinets across the country.

Since then, the administration has partnered with Westmoreland Cleanways and local law enforcement officials twice a year to give Westmoreland County residents the chance to surrender expired, unwanted or unused prescription drugs and other medications to law enforcement officers for destruction.

The next event will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the lobby of the Mt. Pleasant Borough building, located at 1 Etze Ave.

The collection will be conducted locally by the Mt. Pleasant Borough Police Department.

Westmoreland Cleanways volunteers and police at the borough collection site — one of nine countywide — will answer questions about the collection and proper disposal of medication.

“It gives people a lot of opportunity to dispose of those narcotics who have them left over and did not know what to do with them,” said Mt. Pleasant Borough Police Chief Steve Ober. “We've had quite a few turned in. It's been very successful.”

According to a news release, the administration's sponsors the collection to get unwanted drugs out of people's homes where they can become a target of crime.

From an environmental standpoint, increasing quantities and varieties of drugs are showing up in the nation's water supply, according to the release.

From a practical standpoint, ridding a medicine cabinet of unwanted or expired drugs is a matter of personal safety.

“Taking expired medications, taking the wrong medication because a patient gets the pill bottle confused, or children getting into the medicine, all are significant risk factors in keeping unwanted (or) unneeded drugs in the home,” said Ellen C. Keefe, executive director of Westmoreland Cleanways.

Any controlled, non-controlled and over-the-counter medications will be collected including pills, creams and liquids.

The collection is anonymous so no identification will be requested.

No syringes will be accepted.

Participants will retain possession of their own medications and place the substances directly into the collection box.

Keefe said thanks to the local effort about 50 pounds of pills are collected at each location.

“At most locations, the number of participants is not terribly high, but those participants turn in a large volume of unused medications,” Keefe said.

Debbie Meshanski, owner of Diamond Pharmacy in Mt. Pleasant, said programs like this are beneficial to residents.

“I highly recommend that people take advantage of these drug take-back programs, they are much better for the environment and they can prevent accidental poisonings that can occur if someone improperly disposes of their medication,” Meshanski said.

Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.