Law enforcement and health agencies across the Southland will hold collection events Saturday as part of the 16th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Organized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the event urges people to turn in expired, unused or unwanted prescription medications in an effort to combat accidental overdoses and to prevent the drugs from accidentally winding up in the hands of children or other people who may ingest them.

Federal officials said turning over the medications for proper disposal also avoids environmental hazards posed by throwing them in the trash or flushing them down a toilet.

According to the DEA, more than 9.9 million pounds of medications have been collected across the country in take-back events over the past eight years.

In Los Angeles County, nearly 21,000 pounds of medications were collected during take-back events, according to the county Department of Public Health.

“About one in five individuals who started using illegal drugs in the past year reported that their first drug was a prescription pain medication,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Public Health department. “Most people who misuse or abuse prescription opioids obtain them from a friend or relative and many teens report finding unused prescription pain medications in their parents’ medicine cabinets.

“We encourage everyone to look for medications in your home that are expired, no longer needed or potentially dangerous if taken by someone else, then visit a drop-off location on Saturday.”

Drop-off sites will be open throughout the region, primarily at law enforcement stations, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The service is free and anonymous, with no questions asked.

The public can find a nearby collection site by visiting www.dea.gov.

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