SUGAR LAND, Texas — Officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement agencies collected unwanted and unused prescription drugs Saturday morning in the 18th nationwide Drug Take Back Day.

For the first time, the DEA accepted vapes and e-cigarettes as part of their officers' collection efforts.

”Like everyone else, we want to encourage a safe, healthy lifestyle," said Sammy Parks, a special agent for the DEA Houston Division.

A nationwide outbreak of severe lung illnesses tied to vaping products, including 34 deaths in 24 states, including Texas, according to the CDC.

The latest numbers from Harris County Public Health show four teens and two young adults have developed the lung illness. The Houston Health Department's latest numbers show four total cases.

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The event is geared towards getting narcotics and opioids out of medicine cabinets where the medicines are vulnerable to being misused or stolen.

”We do have a problem here. It's not as big as the Northeast, but there is a problem and it’s a growing trend throughout America and we’re trying to address the problem," Parks said.

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”We're keeping it away from our kids and out of our environment," said Mary Kiernan, a licensed chemical dependency counselor for Fort Bend ISD. "If we can stop, one, two, 100 kids from getting involved in drugs or vaping, I’ve done my job."

During the last DEA drug take back day in April, Texas led the country in total weight of meds collected -- more than 92,000 pounds.

People also dropped off other common medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol. All of it gets boxed up, weighed and burned.

Kiernan hopes the continued effort to collect vapes and e-cigarettes will encourage parents and kids to turn them in and stop using them.

”Kids are listening. Whether we think they are or not, they are listening," Kiernan said.


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