Secure boxes to be available for unwanted Pittsburgh-region prescription drugs

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HARRISBURG -- In an effort to reduce prescription drug abuse, Pennsylvanians will soon be able to leave old medications in secure return boxes.

Gov. Tom Corbett and two district attorneys said the initiative will help stem an increasing flow of prescription drugs into the hands of unauthorized users.

"Over the years, everybody would say what is the big drug, the drug of choice?" Mr. Corbett said, listing marijuana, cocaine, crack and heroin. "Clearly today it's the abuse of prescription drugs."

New MedReturn boxes are being installed in police stations and other secure sites in 29 counties, including in the Pittsburgh police offices on Western Avenue and the Moon police department.

A $100,000 federal grant to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency will provide for up to 250 secure boxes, with additional funding for Allegheny and surrounding counties from the Staunton Farm Foundation.

Authorities have observed a statewide increase in abuse of prescription drugs and heroin, said Ed Marsico, district attorney of Dauphin County. Last year, the county had about 20 overdoses that could be attributed to heroin or prescription drugs. This year, there had been 40 by the end of October.

"That's not an anomaly," he said.

David Freed, district attorney for Cumberland County, said prosecutors have seen that prescription drugs are the leading pathway to heroin use. Pennsylvania already has successful prescription drug drop-off programs in Bucks and Berks counties, he said.

Disposing of old medications in the boxes could prevent teens or burglars from obtaining them, the district attorneys said.

People can deposit prescription and over-the-counter solid medications, liquid medications, inhalers, creams, nasal sprays and pet medications in the MedReturn boxes, but not intravenous solutions or needles. A list of locations can be found at

Karen Langley:, 1-717-787-2141, on Twitter @karen_langley.

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