Saturday is Drug Take Back Day — and New Jersey residents will be able to drop off unwanted old prescriptions at sites around the state from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

It is part of a much larger effort that will take place across the country.

Special Agent Timothy McMahon of the Drug Enforcement Administration said many addicts start out by messing around in the medicine cabinet.

"Our research and studies show that today, between 75 and 80 percent of new heroin users started out by using prescription painkillers," he said. "So that is why it is so vital to get rid of these unwanted prescription painkillers that we have in the homes, so that people do not get addicted to it, and then transition into the abuse of heroin as well."

The DEA partners with hundreds of state and local police departments to provide various take-back locations across the state.

Some residents have a mistaken notion that they can simply dispose of unwanted prescriptions by flushing them down the toilet. But "there is an environmental problem with that," McMahon said. "Testing at water treatment plants and testing of local water supplies in the past has shown levels of medication in the system. So it is very important to dispose of the medications properly."

So far, New Jerseyans have turned in a total of 217,000 pounds of unwanted meds in the 14 previous drug take back events over the past seven years.

To find a take-back location, see takebackday.dea.gov.

"Anything that we can do to get these out of the house. is not just a help for everybody, but more importantly a help for our children in the house," McMahon said.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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