It's much easier to steal from family than from a drug store.

That odd but simple fact is one of the primary reasons those who have outdated and unneeded prescription drugs in cabinets throughout their homes should take them to one of the many locations that are part of Saturday's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Members of the Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force will again participate, knowing through the local drug busts they coordinate that abuse of prescription medicine remains a growing problem.

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In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription narcotics abuse is an epidemic.

The problem in Pennsylvania is severe, with 15.1 drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents, according to the CDC's morbidity and mortality report for 2011. It's the ninth-highest rate among the states.

In December, a majority of the defendants in a drug bust that resulted in 65 arrests in eastern Northumberland County were charged in connection with illegal use or possession of prescription drugs.

And in many cases, they didn't have to rob a drug store to get them - although such unfortunate crimes do take place. They stole instead from family or friends who had the drugs for legitimate reasons.

There are many instances, however, where the original need for these narcotics has passed, but the medicine remains - and so, therefore, does the threat of its acquisition and abuse by others.

Also, to simply discard the medication down the sink or toilet can contribute to a growing environmental concern about such disposal impacting the condition of our waterways.

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As for Take-Back Day, it's simple. The service is free and anonymous, and the medications will be turned over to the DEA for proper disposal.

We join local law enforcement in urging residents to take advantage of this collection to surrender expired, unwanted or unused pharmaceuticals, controlled substances and other medications.

Collection details

Unused prescription medication will be collected from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday throughout Northumberland, Montour, Union and Snyder counties with "no questions asked." They can be dropped off at Shamokin, Coal Township, Kulpmont, Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Township, Sunbury, Catawissa, Locust Township and Danville police departments, sheriffs offices and state police stations. More sites are at www.justice.gov/dea.