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Tennessee Collects Nearly 43 Tons of Unused Prescription Pills in One Year

KNOXVILLE - As overdoses rise in East Tennessee, more and more people are looking to safely get rid of their unused medication.

"I'm impressed that the public makes such effort to participate in these programs," Knoxville Pharmacist Hannah Blackwell said.

The number of unused prescription pills has been adding up for the last year, and that number is heavy.

"I think that they're really doing their part to try and get these drugs out of their cabinets," Blackwell said.

"I'm shocked at the number of medications that are going unused in people's cabinets."

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation reports people dropped off 52,164 pounds of drugs at drop-off sites between September 2016 and August 2017. In just two days this fall, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has collected more than 35,489 pounds of prescription drugs in Tennessee. That adds up to nearly 43 tons of medication.

Blackwell says turning in your extra drugs is one of the best ways to fight abuse.

"There are certainly concerns for having some prescription medicine that's unused in your home," Blackwell said. "It puts you at risk for theft, it puts you at risk for getting (it) in the wrong hands--like children."

That's why she's encouraging people to be aware of exactly how much medicine you need.

"We have seen an increase in people who do not want to pick up the entire medicine," Blackwell said. "The entire prescription at once in an effort for them not to have to worry about sending them back."

Taking some of the weight off of what's been a heavy problem.

"We're happy to get all these medications off the streets," Blackwell said.

Blackwell says she had the chance to take a look at some of the drugs people dropped off at one of these events.

She says some of the medicine was illegal, and other medicine was more than 50 years old.

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