By Ben Fractenberg
MANHATTAN — The city wants you to empty your medicine cabinet this weekend.
The Drug Enforcement Agency is spearheading a national day Saturday for people to dispose of their unneeded pills in an effort to fight an increase in prescription drug abuse.
"Abuse of prescription drugs, and opiates in particular, is becoming an increasingly serious problem across the nation and here in New York City," said Bridget G. Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York.
"The number of prescriptions filled for Oxycodone, a highly addictive and very powerful pain killer, have more than doubled in the city over the past two years."
There will be 70 drop-off stations in New York, Long Island and Westchester open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday for people to anonymously drop off their prescription pills. Spots in Manhattan include Penn Station, Pace University and Lenox Hill Hospital, according to the DEA’s website, which has a full listing of locations.
People will be able to either hand over their medication containers or dump the pills into a bin. The contents will then be taken to Newark where they will be incinerated.
The city and surrounding suburbs are hoping to collect around three tons of prescription drugs, said DEA spokeswoman Erin L. Mulvey.
Prescription drug abuse has been steadily rising amongst city teens, according to US Attorney Loretta Lynch.
"…at least 8 percent of New York city high school students report using a medication that was not prescribed to them," said Lynch.
The national effort was inspired by a 2009 effort by New Jersey. The state received 9,000 pounds of prescription pills in one day, estimated at $3.5 million, according to DEA spokesman David Ausiello.
The take-back day is also an environmental effort.
People flushing their pills down the toilette can lead to trace amounts of drugs in our water supply, which is not especially harmful to humans but can also threaten aquatic wildlife, according to John P. Gilbride, the DEA’s Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division.
Gilbride said that disposal for prescription drugs is difficult, which is why he is pushing for a federal law to make drop-off days at least a yearly event.
But, Gillbride emphasized that even though there will only be one national event this year, it will be considered a success even if they can keep prescription drugs out of just a few of the wrong hands.
"If we can save one life it will be worth it," said Gillbride.