Each year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with the help of participating local law enforcement agencies, organizes semiannual events throughout the state to gather expired, unwanted, or unused prescription drugs.

These events also help educate the public on proper prescription drug disposal methods as well as the potential dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Prescription drugs can be equally as dangerous as street drugs when taken without a prescription or a doctor's supervision.

In fact, South Carolina ranked 23rd per capita in prescription drug overdose deaths in 2010, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention; another study conducted by the Trust for America's Health ranks South Carolina 16th.

Either way, drug overdose mortality rates in South Carolina have tripled since 1999, and the year 2011 alone had 225 prescription overdose deaths reported in our state.

According to a new report released this month from the Trust for America's Health, prescription overdoses now account for more deaths than motor vehicle fatalities in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

While South Carolina is not yet included as one of those states, current trends indicate that we soon could be if something is not done to curtail prescription drug abuse.

In 2010, it was estimated that more than 12 million Americans nationwide were abusing prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons. This correlates strongly with the fact that prescriptions for painkillers have quadrupled since 1999.

Recent measures have been taken by South Carolina to lessen the risks associated with prescription drug abuse by improving our state's electronic database reporting process. While South Carolina has gone to great lengths to improve this Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in an effort to track prescriber patterns, the system itself is not foolproof.

Keeping medicines after they are no longer needed creates an unnecessary risk, especially if you have children and younger adults around your home.

A 2011 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that more than 70 percent of people abusing prescription and pain relievers got them through the medicine cabinets of friends or relatives.

Prescription Drug Take-Back days educate the public and remove unused medications from circulation.

In fact, a similar prescription drug take-back day held earlier this year across South Carolina yielded 4,700 pounds of unwanted or expired medications.

As the chief advocate for senior citizens in our state, I feel this outreach initiative is crucial, especially to older South Carolinians who may not be aware of this problem and are particularly vulnerable due to the increased number of prescription drugs that are prescribed as people age.

Please take a moment to check your medicine cabinets, and help us battle prescription drug abuse in South Carolina.

The next Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., and I encourage everyone to familiarize himself with dangers and signs of prescription drug abuse and to take advantage of these free, informative events.

For a complete list of local drop-off locations, individuals are encouraged to visit www.dea.gov, www.aging.sc.gov, or call 1-800-882-9539 for more information on Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and events in your area.

Glenn McConnell, a Republican, is lieutenant governor of South Carolina.