WICHITA, Kan. -- Kristy and Carly Gerstner parked their car Saturday in the Sedgwick County Zoo parking lot and got out with two small bags of medications in hand.
"We've been collecting pill bottles and throwing them into a plastic bag," Kristy Gerstner said. "We needed to get rid of prescriptions that we have not used."
They didn't want to get rid of their expired and unused medications in just any old way, they wanted to do it safely by handing them over to local law enforcement on National Drug Take Back Day.
The zoo was one of three drop off sites in Wichita Saturday that were staffed by members of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department.
"I keep hearing about, 'Don't flush (the medications) down the toilet or put them in the sink garbage disposal. And, I knew we didn't want to throw them in the trash because if by chance a kid found them or something," Gerstner said.
Law enforcement leaders say protecting the environment and keeping pills out of the wrong hands is exactly why the "take back" day is so important.
The rate of prescription drug abuse is soaring across the country. The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates 6.8 million Americans abuse prescription pills.
As a result, they say, unused prescription drugs that just lie around the house leave the door open to misuse and abuse.
"Studies have shown that the first contact with drugs is through the house so this gives (people) the option to get them out so that doesn't occur," said Sgt. Scott Plummer of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department.
Since the drug take back day came to Kansas in 2010, Kansans have dropped off 17 tons of medications, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.
Saturday's event featured drop-off sites all across the state.
"What we have not seen is a decline of people turning these (medications) in," Plummer said.
After the medications are collected by local law enforcement, they are handed over to the D.E.A.
"They weigh them and package them and then they are incinerated," Plummer said.
People dropping off medications Saturday say that gives them peace of mind.
"It's good for the community," Kay Goodknight said.