COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Central Ohio communities took part in a nationwide effort to prevent drug abuse and save lives Saturday as law enforcement, fire departments, pharmacies and others hosted events for National Drug Take Back Day.

A dozen Kroger stores across Ohio set up drive-thru operations in their parking lots Saturday to collect unused and expired pills, liquids, gels, and patches.

“I had a ton of prescription medication that I just didn’t know how to get rid of. I kept putting it away from over the years and I just wanted to get it out of my house,” said Tiffany Scowden as she handed a bag of old medicine to a Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy.

The Hilliard mother explained she wanted to protect her children from the dangers of the excess pills.

“Better to get rid of it and not have stuff that’s expired that they could get into or friends or family could get into,” she said.

Statistics show a majority of abused prescription drugs come from family and friends, including from home medicine cabinets.

“A lot of kids get addicted by finding stuff at home — unused prescriptions that a lot of times parents or grandparents don’t even remember they’ve got in their cabinets,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Yost attended a Drug Take Back Community Safety Day Saturday hosted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Columbus Fire Rapid Response Emergency Addiction and Crisis Teams (RREACT).

In addition to collecting prescription drugs, the event also featured a produce giveaway, Narcan distribution and first aid items, as well as community partners like COSI handing out a health-themed “Learning Lunchbox” and Nationwide Children’s Mobile Care Center providing education.

The April National Drug Take Back Day comes as Franklin County experiences a surge in drug abuse and overdose deaths. In early April, the county coroner reported 17 fatal overdoses in a four-day span. Advocates explained limiting access to potentially dangerous medications can help prevent larger problems with addiction and overdoses.

“You could end up finding, taking, using very addictive medication, like painkillers or fentanyl, that could cause serious harm and potential overdose or death later,” said Steve Burson, the Health and Wellness leader from Kroger’s Columbus division.

Law enforcement and prosecutors support the efforts as a means to thwart demand for street drugs.

“Once you get addicted and you run out of grandma’s pills, you’re going to go to the street. If you’re addicted, you’re going to fill that addiction,” Yost said.

Vidal Patel, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, added, “Anything we can do in society to reduce demand helps us in our efforts against the cartels that are trying to flood the market.”

April 24 marked the 20th semiannual National Drug Take Back Day hosted by the DEA. At its previous Take Back Day in October, the agency collected close to 500 tons of prescription medication. Over the 10-year span of Take Back Day, DEA has collected more than 6,800 tons of drugs.

Outside of Take Back Day, you can safely dispose of unwanted drugs through many law enforcement agencies. Contact your local police department or sheriff’s office for details about locations and accepted drugs.