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For the first time, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and its law enforcement partners will accept vaping devices and cartridges during its 18th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 26.

The goal of the event is to remove unused and expired opioids, other medicines and now vaping paraphernalia from the nation’s homes, “where they are vulnerable to misuse,” the DEA said.

Nationwide, nearly 1,500 lung injury cases have been linked to e-cigarettes or vaping products. Thirty-three people have died.

Three Minnesotans have died from vaping-related lung illnesses, and the Minnesota Department of Health has seen more than 70 confirmed or probable cases of severe lung injury associated with vaping, with dozens more under review.

“This year, we are taking a step further by accepting vaping devices and cartridges as we work with our federal partners to combat this emerging public health threat to the nation’s youth,” Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said in a statement.

Since the events started in 2010, the DEA and partners have collected more than 11 million pounds of expired and unused prescription medications. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs.

Most abused prescription drugs were obtained from family or friends, often plucked from the home medicine cabinet, according to the study. Prescription drugs “are still responsible for the most drug-involved overdose deaths,” according to the DEA’s 2018 Drug Threat Assessment.

There are more than 200 drop-off sites in Minnesota, including the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, which has participated in the Take Back events since their inception.

Anoka law enforcement and EMS respond to prescription drug and illicit opioid overdoses nearly every day, said Anoka County Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Douglas.

“Our community continues to suffer perilous consequences because of opioid addiction,” Douglas said.

The DEA Take Back is an important program that brings in thousands of pounds of unused meds and “gets those prescription drugs off the street, out of homes and away from people vulnerable to addiction,” he said.

“It’s one of many proactive tools we are proud to partner with the DEA on,” Douglas said.

The Take Back event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26. Drop-offs are free and anonymous. To find a collection site, go to DEATakeBack.com or call 1-800-882-9539.

DEA and law enforcement cannot accept devices containing lithium ion batteries.

Staff writer Glenn Howatt contributed to this report. Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037