Local police departments in coordination with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency collected almost five tons of prescription medications in Kansas during the agency's seventh voluntary turn-in day on Oct. 26.

The Dodge City Police Department collected 44 pounds of unwanted medications. The department in Garden City collected 45 pounds. The DEA is still compiling national information from last week's event. In May, the agency collected over 371 tons of unwanted medications nationwide.

The biannual event was created to promote awareness of prescription drug abuse, which health and law enforcement officials have called a national epidemic. Abuse of prescription painkillers has been steadily increasing since restrictions on the drugs were slackened in the 1990s.

Those who misuse the drug get them most often from friends and family, the Center for Disease Control reported, especially from unused drugs left in medicine cabinets. The take-back program also provides residents with a method of drug disposal that won't damage water treatment facilities.

This week, on a recommendation from the DEA, the FDA announced plans to seek a reclassification of prescription painkillers with hydrocodone. Currently, drugs containing less than 15mg of hydrocodone, usually in combination with a second drug such as Tylenol, are classified as Schedule III drugs. If reclassified, hydrocodone drugs will join other highly-abused opioid medications like oxycodone, known by the brand name OxyContin, as a Section II drug.

Medical practitioners seeking to prescribe Section II drugs in Kansas must do so with a written or electronic prescription except in emergency situations. Also, Section II drugs, compared to Section II, cannot be refilled, requiring a prescription for each 30-day course.

In a statement, Director Janet Woodcock of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said the FDA has sought to balance availability of painkillers that "millions of Americans" rely on to manage chronic pain with the "abuse and misuse of opioid products, which have sadly reached epidemic proportions in certain parts of the United States."

The agency sought the advice of patients, healthcare providers, scientists and other agencies before deciding to increase restrictions on the drugs, Woodcock said.

Also this week, the FDA approved a hydrocodone-only extended release painkiller against the recommendations of the agency's expert advisory panel. Zohydro is the first single-ingredient hydrocodone drug approved by the agency.