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Saturday, April 27 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day: where and why to participate

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Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day and the public is encouraged to take the opportunity to safely discard unused or expired prescription medications at either Riverhead Police Department headquarters, 210 Howell Avenue or Peconic Bay Medical Center, 1300 Roanoke Avenue in Riverhead.

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is coordinated by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. It’s intended to remove potentially dangerous controlled substances from our nation’s medicine cabinets, according to officials.

Collection will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the police headquarters at both locations.

The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said.

Many Americans are not aware that medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse, according to the DEA. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States are increasing at alarming rates, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs, the agency says. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet, according to the DEA.

This issue is the subject of a forum scheduled for Monday, April 29 at 7 p.m. at Riverhead High School, sponsored by the Riverhead Community Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Youth. “Every day 2,700 teens try a prescription medicine to get high for the first time. Over one-quarter of Riverhead students (grades 8, 10 and 12) report that prescription drugs are easy to get, and most painkiller abusers report getting them from friends or relatives, often for free,” Riverhead Community Awareness Program director Felicia Scocozza said. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office will be on hand at Riverhead High School that evening from 6:30 to 8 p.m. to collect both prescription and over-the-counter drugs for free, safe disposal.

Improper disposal of medications by flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash also poses environmental and health hazards, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration, which in 2007 issued guidelines for proper disposal, urging that these substances no longer be flushed.

Low but measurable amounts of pharmaceuticals are commonly found in Suffolk County drinking water supplies, according to Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Pharmaceuticals such as cholesterol medication, birth control hormones, antibiotics, antidepressants and pain killers are increasingly found in wastewater because people and institutions continue to flush unused medications, CCE says. Since neither municipal sewage treatment plants nor private septic systems are capable of treating wastewater for these compounds, they end up in the groundwater, CCE says.

“We encourage all Riverhead residents to take advantage of this initiative and protect their families by purging their homes of leftover prescription drugs,” Hegermiller said.

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