National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will be observed locally and nationwide April 28.

Sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the day is specifically set aside to allow an opportunity to safely dispose of unused, unwanted or expired medications at authorized locations in local communities.

Prescription drug use has increased over the years in the military. More than 110,000 active-duty Army troops last year took antidepressants, sedatives and other prescription medications, according to the Army surgeon general.

About 17 percent of military personnel reported misusing prescription drugs, including stimulants (other than methamphetamine), tranquilizers/muscle relaxers, sedatives/barbiturates, pain relievers, anabolic steroids, and erectile dysfunction drugs, according to the 2008 Department of Defense Survey of Health-Related Behaviors.

The prescription drug misuse rate for active-duty Army members was even higher at 23.5 percent. Pain relievers, as in the civilian population, were the most commonly misused/abused type of prescription drug across the military services and in the Army specifically.

These numbers point to the need for Soldiers and their family members to take a second look at how they handle prescription drugs, including those they no longer can use.

That second look could start with the home medicine cabinet.

"Studies are now showing that the majority of high school teenagers who start experimenting with recreational use of prescription drugs start by swiping them from the family medicine cabinet," said Maj. Clifton Dabbs, a physician at the U.S. Army Public Health Command. "It's best to secure your prescription medication in a safe location that is not accessible to children, pets or visitors."

Additionally, many studies also found that prescription drug misuse may be caused by people who provide the drugs to friends and relatives.

"People may experience the same symptoms, and attempt to diagnose themselves," said Dabbs.

This self-diagnosis is dangerous because it may lead to inadequate treatment, wrong treatment or increased resistance by organisms to antibiotics.

"It's best to visit the doctor each time new symptoms arise," said Dabbs.

He also pointed out that drugs can lose potency and effectiveness if they are stored improperly or kept too long.

Since the opportunity to dispose of unwanted and expired medications comes around only once a year, Dabbs thinks it's an opportunity that should be seized.

"In the interests of both health and safety, it's best to rid homes and barracks of unneeded prescriptions," Dabbs said. "Disposing of old prescriptions through the take-back program removes the risk of misuse and precludes accidental overdose by children or pets."

For personnel who are unable to visit an authorized collection site, the Food and Drug Administration recommends disposing of prescription medication by taking the medication out of its original container and mixing with kitty litter or used coffee grounds before throwing in the trash. Medications should only be flushed down the toilet if their label specifically instructs you to do so.

Past Prescription Drug Take Back-Days have been very successful, according to the DEA. On Oct. 29, 2011, more than 377,000 pounds of unwanted or expired medication was collected at 5,327 take-back sites.

"The amount of prescription drugs turned in by the American public during the past three Take-Back Day events speaks volumes about the need to develop a convenient way to rid homes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs," said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.

For more information on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day or to locate a collection center near you, visit:

Drug Enforcement Administration,

Food and Drug Administration,

Page last updated Thu April 12th, 2012 at 16:15