SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It's becoming a dangerous trend. More than 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs get the medicines from friends and family, according to studies released this week.
To help stop the abuse, hundreds of people across the Ozarks participated in National Drug Take Back events on Saturday. People wrapped unused medications in plastic bags and dropped them in cardboard containers. Local law enforcement would transport the containers to Drug Enforcement personnel who would properly dispose.
"As much as we dispense them, we want to make sure that they are being used for the right purposes and not being put on the streets to be given to or sold to people who don't really need them," said Donald Charpentier, pharmacist for Dan's Discount Drug Mart.
Just in Springfield alone, over 600 pounds of prescription drugs were collected.
Ann Thomas, a grandmother and diabetic, was one of the many with a bag of unwanted items.
"I decided that I needed to bring this stuff here because I don't want it to get in the wrong hands," she said. "They (drug users) would love to get their hands on stuff like that. I'm not going to allow it. I'm not going to be the one to provide for them."
Prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic. According to the Partnership for a Drug Free America, every day, about 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time.
"As a matter of fact over the last few years the number of new abusers of medications has equaled the number of abusers of marijuana which has never happened before," explained Chris Davis with Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
Pills, if left unattended, can be stolen from medicine cabinets usually by a friend or relative.
"It's gotten worse over the last decade," said Charpentier, who has worked in the industry for over 12 years. "I've heard people sleeping with their medications, putting them in safes, leaving them with relatives that you trust."
Prescription drug abuse is also becoming one of the biggest killers. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention denote prescription drugs account for 75 percent of all drug related deaths in the country.
It's not just keeping pills out of the hands of abusers. As a form of disposal, some people and even hospitals have flushed the drugs down toilets.
"Studies have shown that a lot of our medicines, whether it's birth control or heart medicines, is showing up in some of the amphibious life forms that we have in our water systems and obviously that is not good," said Nicholas Humphrey, prevention specialist with the Missouri National Guard Counter Drug Task Force. "We don't want this in our water system."
To protect yourself and the environment, here are some tips pharmacists recommend:
* Get a safe with a combination lock for your prescriptions.
* Only get the medications you need, don't stock up or hoard pills.
* Don't let people know what you take.
* Educate kids about the dangers of prescription abuse
* Dispose of needles in old laundry detergent bottles. Fill with kitty litter or another unappealing substance and drop syringes
This was the fourth National Take Back Day. The three previous events have taken in nearly one million pounds of prescription drugs during the past 13 months.