PROVO — Health officials are advising the public to dispose of expired prescription medications to prevent them from being stolen and misused.

Proper disposal also helps avoid polluting lakes and streams, Utah County Health Department officials said.

Prescription medications are the most misused or abused drugs in the county, aside from alcohol, the officials said. People tend to keep old pain killers and left-over pills in case they need them later, but those can be stolen and abused.

Toni Carpenter, UCHD environmental health educator, said people usually flush their old medications down the toilet as counseled in the past. But other communities have started to find trace levels of prescription medication in lakes and streams.

Utah County residents can get rid of their prescription medicines at certain drop-off boxes around the county, Carpenter said. Salem has installed a drop box at its police department, Carpenter said. Other cities are setting up similar locations.

Carpenter said residents can check with their local police departments or pharmacists to see where they can take old medications. Other suggestions for properly and safely disposing of prescription medication can be found at www.cleanoutthecabinet.org.