While no parent wants to see their child become drug addicted, most teens at some point are exposed to alcohol, marijuana and tobacco -- substances that often are a gateway to harder drugs like heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy. But authorities say there's another variable in the equation: prescription drugs.
This Thursday, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is helping people eliminate this risk in their homes, with its fourth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
Local police departments are partnering with the federal agency to offer residents a chance to safely dispose of unwanted or expired medications.
Prescription drug abuse is the third most common way kids get high for the first time. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, an average of 2,500 teens each day use prescription drug to get high for the first time; alcohol and marijuana use were Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.
At a recent drug prevention forum, Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez noted that teens now have "Pharm Parties" -- raiding their parents' bathroom to find painkillers and trading the drugs or taking them en masse.
"It sits in the medicine cabinet. That is a temptation," Perez said.
According to the DEA, more than 377,000 pounds, or 188.5 tons, of prescription drugs were collected at more than 5,300 sites during the agency's third National Drug Tack-Back Day Oct. 29, 2011.
Overall, the DEA and partnering law enforcement agencies have removed 995,185 pounds, or 498.5 tons, of medication from circulation since fall 2010.
"The amount of prescription drugs turned in by the American public during the past three Take-Back Day events speaks volumes about the need to develop a convenient way to rid homes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs," DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said on the agency's website.
Perez said drugs collected from the Chicago suburbs are taken to an incinerator in Indiana. People should not flush pills down the toilet because they could contaminate the water supply, he said.
To find a site near you, visit the drop-off locator in the DEA website;https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/NTBI/NTBI-PUB.pub.
The Kane County Sheriff's Office, 37W755 Route 38, St. Charles, also has a permanent drop-off box available Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
The Campton Hills Police Department will collect prescription drugs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at village hall, 40W115 Campton Crossings Drive.
Participants should remove any identifying personal information from the prescription label.
For more information or questions, call (630) 584-4242.