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Saturday, discard old prescription drugs at safe sites

Bernie and Beverly Strain, a Manayunk couple who lost their 18-year-old son last year to a medicine interaction, have a message for you:

Bernie and Beverly Strain, a Manayunk couple who lost their 18-year-old son last year to a medicine interaction, have a message for you:

Take some time Saturday to clean out unneeded prescription or nonprescription drugs from your medicine cabinets. Then take the drugs to one of the 3,400 sites around the country - including dozens of police stations and municipal buildings in the Philadelphia area - that have agreed to take them for safe disposal.

Old medications will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For a nearby site, visit

The Manayunk couple, parents of three boys, have been working for months to promote what the Drug Enforcement Administration calls its "National Take-Back Initiative," even though it means repeatedly reliving the pain they suffered after a shocking 7 a.m. phone call in August 2009.

"It might sound cliche-ish, but we're trying to turn lemons into lemonade here," Bernie Strain said during a news conference Friday with Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.). He said his son's death helps illustrate why misused prescription drugs are a large, and largely unrecognized, risk.

"We'd much rather be talking about Timmy throwing an 80 m.p.h. fastball, or pitching a no-hitter one day," he said. "We're trying to save a life."

On May 24 - which would have been Tim's 19th birthday - Casey won passage of a resolution setting Saturday as "Timothy Strain Prescription Drug Disposal Awareness Day."

When he died, Strain was a student at Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences. He was taking a prescription painkiller after burning himself on a lawn mower's muffler while cutting grass to raise money for college. His goal was to be a veterinarian.

Strain was still hurting one night while visiting his girlfriend, so her mother decided to give him another, stronger painkiller that she had been prescribed, his father says. Tim was found dead the next morning.

Bernie Strain works as an assistant to State Treasurer Rob McCord, and Beverly Strain is a nurse. As they decided to seek some good from Tim's senseless death, Bernie Strain says, they learned that prescription-drug overdoses or interactions killed more than 27,000 people last year. "More people die from prescription drugs than die from illegal drugs," he says.

They also learned that simply tossing old drugs, which can be powerful toxics or carcinogens, poses environmental risk. For instance, discarded hormones are believed to have harmed development in some species of fish.

Strain now serves as coordinator of Pennsylvania's P2D2 Program, a prescription-drug education and disposal program that aims to make it easier to discard drugs.

"We're always worried about kids' crawling under our sinks and drinking our Clorox," Strain says. "But something the size of a dime can kill you."

Beyond cleaning your cabinets and disposing of your drugs, Bernie Strain's parting advice is to parents regarding their children: "Tell them you love them every day."