DEA targets prescription drug abuse in Bay Area


The agency says legal drugs are just as much of a threat as the illegal ones and that is why it undertook a major effort to get prescription drugs off the streets by sponsoring a drug take back program this weekend.

In less than four hours Saturday, people in the Richmond District filled six large bins at the police department with prescription drugs they were trying to get rid of. Many say it was for environmental reasons like not wanting to pollute the waterway by flushing things down the toilet, but police say that is not the only problem.

"I've held them at home in a plastic bag for a long time, hoping to find a place," Rev. Nancy Pennekamp told ABC7.

The Drug Enforcement Administration sponsored the drug take back day. It was part of a national push to get rid of drugs that are sitting in medicine cabinets and end up in the wrong hands.

"Prescription drugs, at this point, are abused more than cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin combined, and we're talking about individuals from the age of 12 to adult," explained DEA special agent Anthony Williams.

According to the DEA, 1 in 7 teenagers admits to abusing prescription drugs to get high, and they say pharmaceuticals are easier to get than illegal drugs. Overall, 6.2 million Americans abuse medicine that is not prescribed to them. If the pills are not found at home, they are easy to find on the street. On "Pill Hill" in the Tenderloin, the drug of choice is Vicodin. The going rate is just $4 a pill.

"Kids are very resourceful, so we're doing whatever we can do get rid of it," said San Francisco resident Lynne Myers.

"I'm sure there's a lot of people here in the city of Oakland that has [sic] things laying around that kids can get a hold to [sic], it's just not a good practice to have medicine in the house that you don't need," said Oakland resident Darrell Bailey.

The last time the DEA had a drug take back day, they collected 10,000 pounds of drugs in Northern California alone. All the drugs will be taken away and burned.

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