ANTIOCH -- Residents no longer have an excuse to hang on to those unused prescription drugs or throw the pills down the drain.

Antioch is the latest Contra Costa city to provide a permanent drop-off bin for medications in its police department, launching the service Saturday as part of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

"We're happy Antioch police took this up; it's an amazing opportunity to get these potentially dangerous drugs out of people's hands," said Jim Hansen, vice president of the San Ramon-based National Coalition against Prescription Drug Abuse.

The coalition and bin creator MedReturn donated the more than 4-foot-high green receptacle, which is in the police department lobby and accessible during business hours.

Drugs dropped off in the bin are incinerated.

A study last week by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 1.7 million people ages 18 to 25 reported using prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes in a given month.

More people die from prescription drug overdose than from car accidents, Hansen said.

"It's amazing to realize what an epidemic it's become," said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, during Saturday's opening.

A number of Contra Costa cities, including Pittsburg, Richmond, San Ramon, Walnut Creek and Danville, have drop-off bins at their police departments.


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Several residents dropping off plastic bags full of pills Saturday in Antioch said they thought the bins were a great alternative to flushing pills down the drain or leaving them where curious children have access.

Prescription drugs are a popular target for home burglars, police said.

Residents dropped off 119 pounds of expired drugs at Saturday's event.

The drop-off bin is another "tool or piece of equipment" and will provide a great benefit for the entire community, Antioch police Capt. Leonard Orman said.

"It's one of things we'll never know all the good it will do," he said. "Sometimes it's the things we can't measure that have the most effect."

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.