COLUMBIA, Mo. - One in four teenagers admit to having abused prescription drugs, according to a national study.
In Boone County, nearly 10 percent of student in grades six through 12 said they, too, have abused them.
This growing number is the fuel behind annual prescription drug take-back events. Two of those events happened in Columbia.
On Thursday, one was held at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital while the other was at the Boone County Health Department.
People with expired or unwanted prescriptions were able to drop them off for safe disposal. The Youth Community Coalition and Columbia Police Department teamed up to be part of the more than 4,700 take-back sites across the United States.
This year, they are no longer counting the amount of drugs they receive, instead the number of people dropping them off.
Doctors, pharmacists, environmental specialists and police officers told ABC 17 News that these drop off events are important for two reasons.
The first is to make sure drugs stay out of the hands of potential abusers, and secondly, to protect the environment.
"We are aware of individuals who may steal medications out of nightstands, medicine cabinets, anywhere they can their hands on it," said Sgt. Candy Cornman with the Columbia Police Department.
Getting rid of these unused drugs is key to preventing abuse, even accidental abuse for the person they are prescribed to.
"It cuts down on people self-diagnosing, treating themselves with past medications for something they think they might have when, in reality, it could be something completely different," said Dr. Jason Zerrer, with Provident Urgent Care.
These events take any medication, even if it's for an animal. The Drug Enforcement Administration then properly gets rid of it, the second reason the event is important.
"A lot of individuals thought flushing these down the toilet was a good idea," said Cornman.
It is not, according to environmentalists. University of Missouri professor Keith Goyne told ABC 17 News that water treatment plants aren't designed to break down these drugs, so it could be contaminating the water supply.
If someone was unable to make it to any of these events, the Columbia Police Department at N. Sixth and East Walnut streets, has a drop-off box for prescription drugs available 24/7.
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