FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Patients can safely and securely dispose of unused medications using a blue "medsafe" medication disposal box located in the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital's main outpatient pharmacy waiting room.A second collection receptacle is located in the Consolidated Troop Medical Center, intended to serve Fort Leonard Wood's basic trainee population."The fact that GLWACH was chosen for this new medication-return pilot program is a clear indication to me of the confidence, reliability and value of this military treatment facility to higher Army and federal decision makers," said Stephanie Gilbert, GLWACH assistant pharmacy chief.The receptacle's one-way drop door is open to accept deposits during the main outpatient pharmacy's normal hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.Accepted medications for disposal in the box include:• Prescription Medications • Controlled Substance Medication • Over-The-Counter Medications • Vitamins • Medicated Lotions/Ointments • Liquid Medication in Leak-Proof Containers • Transdermal Skin PatchesItems not suitable for deposit in the medsafe containers include:• Needles (Sharps) • Thermometers • Contraband drugs • Infectious Waste/Medical Waste • Personal Care Products • Business Waste • Hydrogen Peroxide • Aerosol Cans • InhalersRates of prescription drug abuse in the United States are alarmingly high. The majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet, Gilbert said."These medication amnesty boxes will save lives--it's just that simple," Gilbert said.Collection receptacles are the Drug Enforcement Agency's first choice method for safe disposal and the agency's preferred method for secure collection."This method for the destruction of controlled drugs renders the medications completely unusable through incineration which also prevents them from contaminating ground water," Gilbert said.The collection receptacles are designed to further implement the "Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act" in conjunction with continued take-back events and mail-back programs.Issues with the comingling of non-controlled medications with controlled substances (schedule II-V) have hindered safe and secure use of collection receptacles in the past, but under new DEA regulations use of special collection boxes are now not only an acceptable practice, but the preferred method of medication disposal for communities.The double-locked steel collection boxes are securely fastened to a permanent structure, tested under the standards established by Underwriters Laboratories, and the removable serialized liners are tracked and transported by independent authorized carriers.Safe household disposal of expired, unused or unwanted medications is also an accepted method of disposal and involves a five-step process to ensure these medications can't be reacquired or reused on the street.To use the household method of disposal:1. Take the medications out of their original containers 2. Mix the medications with cat litter or used coffee grounds 3. Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid such as an empty margarine tub or a sealable bag 4. Conceal or remove any personal information including the Rx number on the empty containers by covering it with permanent marker, duct tape, or by scratching this information off of the product 5. Place the sealed mixture in the trash"Don't flush your expired, unwanted or unused medications or over-the-counter drugs down the toilet," Gilbert said. "Unused prescription medication in homes creates a public health and safety concern. They are highly susceptible to accidental ingestion, diversion, misuse and abuse."The collection receptacles are another in a series of pilot programs begun here over recent years, in addition to several other more recent and uniquely exclusive care programs initiated at GLWACH such as "REST Asssured!", "Stemi hot load", and the visual real-time appointment availability monitor located in GLWACH's emergency room and available online. Read about these and other GLWACH initiatives at http://glwach.amedd.army.mil/news/.GLWACH's independent national awards and achievements have also apparently helped to secure the attention of high-level decision makers over recent years, contributing to Fort Leonard Wood remaining number one on the Army Surgeon General's priority list for receiving a new medical treatment facility.(Editor's note: John Brooks is the marketing and public affairs officer at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital)