When Bucks County teens get hooked on drugs, they don't start with heroin or "bath salts."
They're much more likely to start using drugs they can find right in their own homes.
"A lot of it starts in the home medicine cabinet. They’re not connecting with a dealer at first," said Bev Haberle, director of The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania.
"We've heard all kinds of stories about parties where a bunch of kids bring pills they found in their medicine cabinet and toss them in a bowl, and they reach in and grab a handful and take whatever is in there," she told Patch during a discussion about teen drug use in Central Bucks.
"I think people are less concerned about prescription drug abuse than illegal drug abuse. But they should be worried about both," Haberle said.
A rising awareness of how easily today's powerful medications can be abused has fueled a new nationwide effort to collect and dispose of unused prescription drugs. Called the National Take-Back Initiative, the program is coordinated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and implemented in towns across the country by local police departments and other agencies.
This Saturday, the DEA is sponsoring another prescription drug take back event nationwide, and many municipalities throughout Bucks County are participating.
"Getting rid of unused or old medications reduces their availability for youth to abuse them," Tim Philpot, coalition director of community prevention group Pennsbury LYFT, told Patch via email.
The way it works is pretty simple.
People who have prescription medications in their homes that they are no longer taking can bring those drugs to a drop off point for safe disposal. No questions are asked.
Products accepted include prescription and over-the-counter solid drugs, such as pills and capsules; liquid medications; inhalers; nasal sprays; creams; ointments; pet medications.
Products not accepted include intravenous or injectible solutions and illegal drugs such as marijuana.
The collection runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Local drop-off points include:
- Bristol Borough Muncipal Building, 250 Pond Street, Bristol
- Bristol Township Building, 2501 Bath Road, Bristol
- Conwell-Egan High School, 611 Wistar Road, Bristol
- Falls Township Police Department, 188 Lincoln Highway, Fairless Hills
- Langhorne Borough Hall, 114 East Maple Avenue, Langhorne
- Giant, 4001 New Falls Road, Middletown
- Target, 2331, East Lincoln Highway, Middletown
- Penndel Police Department, 300 South Bellview Avenue, Penndel
- Tullytown Police Department, 500 Main Street, Tullytown
According to the DEA, these drives have been very successful.
An April collection netted 552,161 pounds of prescription drugs gathered from more than 5,650 towns across the county, the agency said. Nearly 4,300 state and local law enforcement agencies assisted with the drive, the DEA said.
In total, the agency's four Take Back events collected more than 1.5 million pounds - nearly 775 tons - of drugs.
Here in Bucks County, a collection in November 2010 netted 628 pounds of pills and 680 pounds of of liquid medication.
At the time, the county's district attorney said it was a great way to help stop the flow of drugs to young people.
"Over the past several years, prescription medications have emerged as the new wave of abused drugs," Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said in a statement then. "In-demand drugs sell on the street for as much as $40 for one pill."
Disposing of unwanted medicine properly is important for another reason.
Drugs that are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash are increasingly finding their way into our water supply.
In 1999-2000, a first of its kind federal study tested 139 streams in 30 states for drugs and hormones. Eight out of 10 of the streams sampled harbored at least one contaminant, while seventy-five percent contained two or more.
Philpot called Saturday's event "a chance for people to drop off unused or extra medication to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way."
For a complete list of Saturday's drop-off points in Bucks County, click on the PDF file attached to this story.
Patch reporter Tom Sofield contributed to this story.