MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — State and federal criminal justice officials are urging Alabama residents to participate in a program that will allow them to turn in prescription drugs and the officials promise that no questions will be asked.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, U.S. Attorney George Beck and Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay Morris on Thursday announced there would be 60 sites around the state Saturday that would accept prescription drugs being turned in by the public.
The state participated in a similar program last spring. Beck said at that time that 2 tons of prescription drugs in Alabama were turned in and about 276 tons were collected nationally.
Beck said prescription drug abuse is "an enormous problem" across the country.
"This drug take-back day allows us to rid our medicine cabinets of these potentially lethal drugs. We ask all of our citizens to use this day to help make their homes a safer place for their families and friends," Beck said.
Morris said the program has been successful in other parts of the country, which is why officials want to expand participation in Alabama. Morris said authorities have looked at establishing permanent drop off locations, possibly at pharmacies, where prescription drugs could be dropped off year-round.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says the collected drugs will be incinerated. Health officials warn that disposing of pharmaceuticals by flushing them can taint groundwater and that simply throwing them out means that animals or people can get at them.
Alabama officials said they have expanded the state's participation in what has been a national program.
Law enforcement agents will man the sites and will accept any prescription drugs, but the focus of the program is on addictive narcotics prescriptions such as hydrocodone and morphine.
The Alabama Legislature has looked for ways in the past to take unused drugs, like those prescribed for chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure, and make them available to the elderly and others who can't afford to buy medicine. But Morris said all of the medicine turned in during the take back program needs to be destroyed
"There are a lot of likely risks," Morris said. "We don't know where it has come from or where it was stored."