OnCentral | Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

LA health officials ask residents to turn in unused drugs - prescription or otherwise

L.A. County Department of Public Health is asking Angelenos to turn in their expired or unused drugs as part of drug take-back day on April 27.
L.A. County Department of Public Health is asking Angelenos to turn in their expired or unused drugs as part of drug take-back day on April 27.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Los Angeles health officials are asking Angelenos to hand over their leftover or expired drugs as part of an effort to reduce pharmaceutical misuse throughout the county.

A statment from the L.A. County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) says the program "provides an opportunity for residents to safely and anonymously surrender any unused or expired prescriptions, over the counter medications, 'SHARPS' (needles), or any other controlled substances."

The statement promises "there will be no questions asked" of anyone who turns in any pharmaceuticals. "We just want to get it off the streets," says the department.

According to a recent report from the LACDPH, non-medical use of prescription medicine—most often, heavy-duty painkillers—is second only to marijuana as the country's most widespread drug issue. But unlike pot, misuse of prescription painkillers has led to a surge in accidental deaths in recent years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports overdose deaths have tripled in the last 20 years. While they attribute much of this to misuse by the patient, they also point to how often strong painkillers are prescribed. In 2010 in the U.S., enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every adult 24/7,  for one month.

Although April 27 is the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) national drug take-back day, there are always disposal bins for unwanted drugs located outside L.A. County Sheriff's stations.

Most medical offices and pharmacies will not accept returned drugs, so officials encourage people to make use of these drop-off bins year-round. Next week on drug take-back day, additional locations will be accepting unwanted drugs. In and around the South L.A. area, residents can drop theirs off at the following locations:

L.A. County Sheriff's Station, South LA: 1310 W. Imperial Hwy. LA 90044

Drug Enforcement Administration: 255 E. Temple St. LA 90012

To find additional take-back locations, search your zip code on the DEA's website. 

During last year's national take-back event, the DEA collected more than collected 244 tons of prescription medications from across the country.

By removing unnecessary meds from your home, you remove the temptation for your own misuse and you help ensure that kids and teens don't get their hands on your pills. Young children could ingest drugs accidentally, but health officials say some teens and young adults experiment with prescription drugs because they're often easier to obtain and seem less harmful than illegal drugs.

In 2010 in L.A. County, 11 percent of high school freshman and 14 percent of 11th graders reported reported the misuse of prescription painkillers at least once in their life.

KPCC reports that in January 2013, the local health department issued a set of recommendations  to combat prescription drug abuse. That report suggested improvements in drug tracking and disposal, as well as better healthcare provider education.