Take back initiative for unused, expired medication disposal

The seventh National Take Back Initiative, where residents are encouraged to dispose of expired or unused prescription medications, will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Maui Police Department Wailuku Station.

Residents may bring their medications to the site; the service is free and anonymous. No questions will be asked, a news release about the event said.

Tablets, capsules and all other solid dosage forms of medication will be accepted. New or used needles and syringes will not be accepted.

The event is a partnership among the Department of the Attorney General, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the state Narcotics Enforcement Division.

Since September 2010, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands have collected nearly 5.5 tons of expired and unused prescription medications, the news release said.

On the most recent National Take-Back day April 27, 371 tons of prescription medications were turned in at the 5,829 Take-Back sites in all 50 states and the U.S. territories. Of that total, about 1,330 pounds of prescription medications were collected in Hawaii, the news release said.

Law enforcement officials said that there is a growing concern over prescription drug abuse and that many abusers obtain the drugs from the medicine cabinets of family and friends.

“In Hawaii, pharmaceutical controlled substances have become a huge problem with our youth,” said Keith Kamita, administrator of the Narcotics Enforcement Division of the Department of Public Safety. “They underestimate the dangers of these types of controlled substances, stating, ‘How can it hurt me? It’s prescribed by doctors.’ These substances are as strong as or stronger than street drugs.”

Unused or expired medicines should be disposed of properly when they are no longer needed for the illness for which they were prescribed. Medicines may lose their effectiveness after the expiration date, and improper use of prescription drugs can be as dangerous as illegal drug use, the news release said.

Having unused and expired medicines in the home increases the risk of accidental poisoning. Homes where children or the elderly live are especially vulnerable because people may mistake one type of medicine for another type and children may mistake medicine for candy.

Unused or expired medicines should not be thrown in the trash or flushed down the toilet. Proper disposal helps reduce the risk of prescription drugs entering the water supply or potentially harming aquatic life.

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