BURLINGTON – On Saturday, April 28, communities across Vermont will be participating in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day – setting up collection sites that offer a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Last year, Vermonters turned in 5,552 pounds of medication at more than 70 collection sites.

Take Back Day is organized in partnership with the Health Department, local and state law enforcement, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to help ensure that prescription drugs that are no longer being used don’t end up being misused.

“Prevention starts at home,” Vt. health commissioner Mark Levine said. “Most people who abuse prescription painkillers get them from friends or family – often straight out of the medicine cabinet,”

Dr. Levine explained. “By ensuring the safe use, safe storage and safe disposal of prescription drugs, we can make sure medications don’t get into the wrong hands, and are disposed of in a way that won’t pollute our waterways or injure wildlife.”

Studies show that 42 to 71 percent of prescribed opioids go unused.

“Don’t save your leftover prescription pain pills. They are dangerous and pose a public safety risk,” Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas D. Anderson said. “Drug Take Back Day allows Vermonters to get rid of unused or expired prescription medications in a secure, convenient and responsible way.”

Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, agreed: “The prescription drugs we leave in our homes can be lost, stolen or misused. We’re working to make it easy but also safe for people to dispose of the drugs they don’t need anymore,” he said.

Here’s what you need to know about Prescription Drug Take Back Day:

Where do I take my unused, expired or unwanted prescription drugs?

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, visit a Take Back collection site. Find one near you at takebackday.dea.gov or healthvermont.gov/drugtakeback. You can also dial 2-1-1 or go to vermont211.org .

What if I miss Take Back Day?

Don’t worry! Vermonters have a number of options. The Health Department coordinates a system of permanent prescription drug disposal sites, such as at pharmacies and police stations where disposal boxes or kiosks are in areas open to the community. Find a permanent drug disposal site near you: healthvermont.gov/drugtakeback or dial 2-1-1.

  As part of a Law Enforcement Pilot Project to coordinate pickups each month from sheriff’s departments across the state, the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department collected more than 7,100 pounds of prescription medications for disposal.

Do I need to take off labels or empty the bottles?

Not if you don’t want to. Medication can be discarded on Take Back Day the same way it came out of the pharmacy, but you can still drop off medication even without the original packaging. You can remove personal information if you want to, but doing so is unnecessary. Liquids or sharps (such as syringes) are not accepted. Here’s how to properly dispose of sharps in the trash: healthvermont.gov/sharpsdisposal.    

What gets collected, and how much?

Unused, unwanted or expired prescription drugs. A year ago, Vermonters turned in more than 2.5 tons of medications. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that about 10 percent of the medication collected on Take Back Day are opioids.

What happens to the drugs after law-enforcement collects them?

All the dropped-off medication is securely gathered in one place, briefly stored, then transported out of state by the DEA and incinerated.