JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - More than 1,000 pounds of medications are off the streets after successful drug take back events throughout Northeast Tennessee.
The East Tennessee State University's Prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse research team is using those medications to come up with a way to prevent prescription drug abuse.
We're told about 70 percent of abused drugs come from family and friends, with unused prescriptions in their cabinets.
The ETSU researchers hope to reduce that statistic. They counted barrels full of pills on National Drug Take Back Day in April.
On Wednesday, we found out about 1,130 pounds of medications were collected and that one prescription was more than 40 years old.
"[The] awareness campaign that we provided or produced for our community has really brought forth a number of additional donors this spring," said Jeff Gray, with ETSU's College of Pharmacy.
Gray told us they collected about 50 percent more medications in April, than they did at their collection in October.
They've been keeping track of what's collected on take-back days and in drug drop-off boxes for the last 12 months.
They've also recorded the types of people disposing of the drugs.
"Oftentimes individuals who are over age 60, who are the typical donors," said Gray. "Our drive is to make the program more aware to those individuals over 60 but also to mothers."
Gray said they've finished collecting data and have moved onto an awareness campaign to encourage others to get unwanted drugs out of their home.
This is all part of a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The goal, we're told, is to figure out a way to prevent accidental poisonings, and to keep medications out of the hands of drug addicts.
"With controlled substances, we know the risks are slightly higher not only for the individual taking them but also if they fall into the wrong hands," Gray said.
He told us one final piece to the puzzle is opening a dialogue between physicians, pharmacists and the public about the risks of medications.
There is another take back event scheduled for the fall.
You can also get rid of unwanted medications at the following local law enforcement drug drop-off boxes:
Johnson City Police Department
Kingsport Police Department
Bluff City Police Department
Sullivan County Sheriff's Office
Bristol Tennessee Police Department
Elizabethton Police Department
Jonesborough Police Department
Rogersville Police Department