WESTERN NEW YORK -- Drug drop-offs were held at 30 locations across Western New York Saturday in an effort to keep unwanted or unused prescriptions out of the hands of drug abusers.
About 85 cars stopped at the West Seneca Senior Center and dropped off 100 pounds of pills in just the first hour. In past years, that site has collected two to four tons of unwanted pills.
Pharmacy students from area colleges and universities volunteered to identify and count the pills, which will later be destroyed.
Prescription drug abuse is being described as an epidemic in Western New York. Abusers often think prescription meds are a safer alternative to street drugs like cocaine or heroin.
"Unfortunately people couldn't be more wrong. Prescription pain killers are made from the same opiate derivative that heroin is made from. It's simply a synthetic form," said Jessica Sherman, of Kids Escaping Drugs. "So young people are falling under the false perception that because it is prescribed by a doctor for somebody at some point that they are safer than street drugs. And we see young people and adults become addicted very, very, very quickly."
Sherman said 90 percent of the adolescents she deals with at KED's Renaissance Campus have abused prescription drugs at some point in their lives. They tell her they're often easier to get than alcohol.
Earlier this week U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called for a National Prescription drug buyback program.