The state’s top cop wants you to “take back” your unused medications.

It’s a common problem in Wisconsin, explains State Attorney General JB Van Hollen. The spiral starts in high school with seemingly innocent marijuana use, then prescription drugs, and eventually to the readily available, relatively inexpensive Heroin.

“Everyone has known for years now we’ve had a prescription drug abuse epidemic but as prescription drug access has fallen off, we’ve had more people become addicted to prescription opiates who are now turning to less expensive, easier to access, and often pure Heroin.”

AUDIO: Van Hollen says we have a Heroin epidemic. :33

Van Hollen says if prescription drugs are made less accessible to young adults, there will be less Heroin abuse down the road.

State officials are promoting the upcoming National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, set for Saturday across the nation with approximately 200 locations throughout Wisconsin.

“People have an opportunity to very, very simply clean out their medicine cabinets, help protect the environment, and help keep getting young people from getting addicted to prescription drugs and or Heroin. All with one simple act.”

More Americans abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined, Van Hollen says, and a majority of those abused medications come from family, friends, and even household medicine cabinets.

Wisconsin is among the top five states for total amount of unwanted or expired drugs collected, with 19.25 tons, or 38,506 lbs, dropped off last October.

The head of the DNR also encourages Wisconsinites to properly dispose of their meds.

By dropping off your unused, unwanted or expired medications, you can help prevent prescription drug diversion and misuse. In addition to that, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp touts the environmental benefits.

Last April, Wisconsinites dropped off nearly 23 tons (45,581.3 lbs) worth of prescription drugs.

“When everybody gets together and does the right thing, I mean, imagine if all of that was going into our water systems. So those are the kinds of things … it’s really important to get the message out and how important it is to education people on doing things the right way.” She says, “A little bit makes a big difference.”

These ‘Take-Back’ events help to ensure drugs are disposed of properly, Stepp explains, rather than being flushed down the toilet or tossed in a landfill, which can threaten the quality of our air, surface and ground waters, as well as our fish and wildlife.

But what happens to all those pills?

“They’re actually incinerated at a facility designed for that. Very high temperatures with all the correct advanced air pollution controls on them. Some of the medicines that might have mercury in them like vaccines, for example, those are handled as hazardous waste.”

The service is free and anonymous. Stepp says individuals can make a big difference in such a small way.

Use your zip code to find the closest take-back location. National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day occurs twice a year — April and October. The next one is Saturday, 10 am to 2 pm.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 2:30

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