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Editorial: Dispose of meds properly

Seems like the theft and improper use of prescription medications is on the rise in Western Wisconsin. You just have to read through the weekly police reports and the sheriff's report to recognize the trend.

Stolen and misused prescription drugs seem to find their way into police reports and it's no longer a rare occurrence to see such an arrest.

But it's no wonder that prescription medications have become a big problem here and elsewhere.

Powerful medications that go unused by their intended user can sit for weeks and months in home cabinets, and often are the target of thieves and drug addicts.

Law enforcement officials claim a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, many snatched from home medicine cabinets. Those pills are used to feed an individual's addiction or sold to others on the street.

An alarming statistic is that more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin and inhalants combined, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

And clearly there are plenty of unused prescription medications out there just waiting to be abused.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around the clock for one month. And a large number of those pills often go unused.

Apart from the abuse issue, prescription medications are having a negative impact on the environment as well.

Environmental agencies are advising people that their traditional methods for disposing of unused medicines (such as flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash) pose potential safety and health hazards.

Traces of such medicines are showing up in our waterways and water systems, creating a threat to people, wildlife and nature in general.

To reduce the chance for abuse, and to help protect the state's environment, area residents with expired or unused medications have an opportunity to safely dispose of them during the Clean Sweep events put on by the Pierce County Solid Waste Department twice annually at the recycling center in Ellsworth.

We encourage everyone to do their part to reduce the illegal trafficking of prescription medications, and help the environment, by sorting through pill containers and getting rid of prescriptions that aren't being used.