Pills by the millions dumped at 'Drug Drop-off Day'

Pills by the millions dumped at 'Drug Drop-off Day' »Play Video
Thousands of vials containing millions of pills were brought in during "Drug Drop-off Day."
SEATTLE - With prescription drug abuse emerging as a nationwide epidemic, thousands of Washingtonians took advantage of "Drug Drop-off Day" on Saturday to get rid of outdated medications.

Nearly a hundred drop-off locations around the state took back unused or expired medications - no questions asked.

And it quickly became clear how many people how many people have vials of pills at home that they no longer need.

You're not supposed to pour them down the sink or flush them down the toilet - so a chance to safely clean out their medicine cabinets struck a chord with plenty of people.

For drugs that can cost so much, the rush was on to get rid of them.

Janna Brown of West Seattle came in with a bag of high-powered chemotherapy medication she once had to take. Her cancer is gone - but the pills have hung around for years.

"'Cause I've called around - and pharmacies, no one will take them. And this way I can get rid of them safely," she says.

Bottles of expired drugs were brought in - including one vial from 1986.

"Well, I have four children, and I just don't like extra medications in my house, so I decided I would just get them out of the house," says Arlene McMonigle of West Seattle.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and state officials say leftover painkillers are too tempting a target for teenagers and many others looking for a quick high.

But that can easily become an addiction, or lead to deadly results.

"It's a combination of more drugs, larger doses, more powerful - then people misusing them by grinding them up and snorting them or swallowing them, mixing them with other drugs," says state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

"It's that combination of factors that's caused the accidental overdose death rate to absolutely go through the roof."

Scott and Charlene Depuy know that agony. Their 17-year-old son Ryan had become addicted to Xanax. He died more than two years ago of an overdose.

"Ryan was a wonderful, wonderful kid," says Scott Depuy. "The combination of those four drugs - the benzodiazapine, the Vicodin, the Benadryl and the cough surpressant - it was just the right mix for him to shut his system down and he didn't wake up."

This past Tuesday, nine students at a middle school in Bremerton took prescription drugs that belonged to a parent. The pills included Cymbalta, which is used to treat depression.

It was another reminder from law enforcement to treat prescription drugs with care. And a hint of why we might see more days like these - a way to safely dump unwanted and unneeded pills.

McKenna says Washington state is currently one of only 10 states that don't keep track of the dispensing of powerful drugs, such as Oxycontin. That needs to change, he says.

And he says the state needs to create more permanent drug take-back sites, where anyone can drop off medications at any time.