DEA takes back old pills, no questions asked

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by TRICIA MANNING-SMITH / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 24, 2010 at 10:25 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 25 at 5:14 PM

The president may soon consider legislation authorizing more places to take back old prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Just this week we saw just how dangerous prescription drugs can be when they fall into the wrong hands. Nine Bremerton middle schoolers ended up in the emergency room after taking prescription drugs.   

The problem is many people don't know how to safely get rid of old medicines.  On Saturday, the DEA offered to take back prescription and over-the-counter drugs, no questions asked.

Cynthia Baker had been hauling around a bottle of old pills in her purse, just looking for a safe place to dump them.

"I have a high school student.  Keeping keeping narcotics around, I know they're abused, ADHD medications abused in high school and college. I just wanted to get rid of them safely, not put them in the water, stream or anything like that," said Baker.

Baker handed over her old pills to a DEA agent who tossed them in the heap of hundreds others, no questions asked.   The DEA set up a collection station near Safeco Field, along with 93 other locations around Washington State.

Gloved officers showed some of the old prescriptions they collected today, some shockingly out of date.

"Percodan from 1986, Vicodin from 2000, (the bottle is) mostly full," said a DEA agent.

Janet Lee and her husband brought some medicine that has been sitting around in their cupboard for ages. The Lees say it belonged to their son, who has long since grown and moved away.

"I didn't know how to dispose of it safely. I didn't want to flush it down the toilet of bury it in the garden, contaminate things," said Janet Lee.

The DEA will safely destroy the expired prescriptions.

"This a huge step, taking back drugs," said Scott DePuy.  He and his wife Charlene were glad to get the old meds out of cabinets before they ended up sold on the street, into the mouth of someone like their own son, Ryan. He died from a prescription drug overdose two years ago.

"What's in your medicine cabinet is like a loaded gun," said Scott DePuy.

They Depuy's grief motivated them to take a stand. They now operate a charitable foundation in Ryan's name, www.ryanssolution.com.  The goal is to help other kids hooked on prescription drugs and to wake-up their parents. The Depuys wished they'd had a warning.

"It never crossed my mind as it being a hazard," said Scott DePuy.

Meanwhile, Representative Jay Inslee is a sponsor of legislation, known as the "Safe Drug Disposal Act." It would allow more places to takeback old medicine.   If lawmakers approve the measure this week, it goes to the President's desk.  Currently, several Bartell's in the Seattle area will accept expired prescriptions.

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