OGDEN -- Members of the Weber-Morgan Health Department didn't know what to expect when they participated in the first-ever national prescription drug "Take-Back" campaign.
But as people cleaned out their medicine cabinets, 285 pounds of unwanted or unused prescription drugs were dropped off Saturday at the Weber-Morgan Health Department, the third-highest total in the state turned in at one place.
"We were pleased that so many people are concerned about this issue," said Lori Buttars, public information officer at the Weber-Morgan Health Department. "We want to keep it out of the ground water, to keep people from flushing them down the toilet. But we also want to keep them out of the hands of drug abusers and accidental overdoses with kids and things like that."
Utah collected 3,076 pounds of prescription drugs, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, with a total of 1,108 pounds coming from various drop-off sites set up across the Top of Utah.
The biggest one-site total in the state was at the Birch Family Pharmacy in Tooele, where workers gathered 787 pounds of unused prescription drugs, while the Salt Lake City and County Building collected 385 pounds.
Along with collecting the unwanted drugs, which will be incinerated, the Weber-Morgan Health Department passed out literature informing people the dangers of having such drugs around.
Some people may not know, but when flushed down the toilet these drugs do not just disappear.
"We know that they do get into streams and ground water," Buttars said. "We test for that."
Getting into drinking water is not the only way the old drugs can be harmful.
More than seven million Americans abuse prescription drugs, according to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Every day, on average, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.
That is why the DEA wanted to dispose of the drugs before they could be a problem.
The American public turned in more than 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs for safe and proper disposal at more than 4,000 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states.
There will be another opportunity for people to dispose of old medications, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Morgan County Sheriff's Office. There is also a list of permanent drop-off sites at www.medicationdisposal.utah.gov.