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National Drug Take-Back Day a success

"The vast majority of people 12 years old and older have experimented or are using prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes," said Burns. "Prescription drug abuse has become epidemic in our country."

Regardless of how someone comes across prescription medications not intended for them, their use is against the law, said Burns.

"If the prescription is not for you, for a specific medical condition, then it's illegal to be doing it and you're putting yourself at risk not only for legal action, but you're putting your health at risk," he said. "You could die from this."

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency room visits related to prescription drug-related illnesses have exceeded those related to illicit drugs for three consecutive years. In 2009, 1.2 million patients were taken to an emergency room for pharmaceutical drug use - a number nearly double the number seen in 2004, which was 627,000.

The DEA and other agencies are utilizing events like the National Take Back Initiative as they work their way toward eliminating illegal prescription drug use, said Burns.

"We don't want to just arrest our way out of this problem," he said.

Lt. Chuck Potthast, with the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, agreed. Potthast said he would rather see the problem stopped at its source, by finding ways to keep the drugs out of the hands of drug abusers in the first place.

"It's a huge percentage of the illicit drugs and illegal drugs that are out there," Potthast said of prescription drugs. "We all realize it's a problem. And I think we're all attacking it with the weapons that we have."

Potthast said he has also dealt with cases of Medicaid fraud where those on assistance have either given or sold their prescription drugs. That's something that can lead to serious legal action and something that could even be worse for the persons receiving benefits.

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