As drug addiction rises in Canada, addicts may be looking for their next fix not on the streets but in your medicine cabinet, the federal government says.

Public Safety Canada is therefore encouraging Canadians to visit designated sites run by local police and community partners on May 11, to drop off unused prescription drugs that might otherwise fall into the wrong hands.

Doing so could help save a life.

According to Health Minister Leona Agukklaq, some of the main sources of drugs for addicts are family medicine cabinets, where unneeded, expired prescription drugs often languish.

In a statement released on Friday, Ontario Provincial Police cited studies indicating that 24 per cent of teenagers surveyed admitted abusing prescription drugs within the previous year, and most of them had found the drugs at home.

National Prescription Drug Drop-Off Day aims to reduce the volume of prescription drugs available for misuse, as well as to inform the public of the harm they can cause, including accidental overdose and sometimes death.

Prescription drugs ending up in the wrong hands can also lead to health care fraud, pharmacy robberies, impaired driving and drug trafficking, the government said.

“I’ve heard heartbreaking stories of abuse and addiction. Our government has listened and we are taking action,” Aglukkaq said at a press conference to announce the initiative on Thursday.

In addition, Health Canada says there is growing evidence that disposing of pharmaceuticals in the garbage and flushing them down toilets or sinks could ultimately be harming aquatic species as chemicals enter the water.

As part of a government crackdown on the growing problem of prescription drug abuse, “police must now be notified of any unexplained loss or theft of these drugs,” she said.

“I encourage all Canadians to do their part,” she added.

People wishing to know where they can drop off their medications on Saturday should contact their local police departments, Health Canada said.

Addiction counsellors and pharmacists will also be on hand at the drop off sites on Saturday to offer advice and let people know what they can do to reduce the risk of prescription drug abuse, including returning unneeded or expired drugs to pharmacies.

Although the initiative is just one day, the government is hoping it will sow the seeds for greater awareness and action against drug abuse.

“My hope is that this is not only going to be a recurring day in our country, but it will create a recurring ethos that we know that we can take back unused prescription drugs,” Vancouver Conservative MP John Weston said at the press conference.

A similar pilot programme in Niagara last year saw members of the community turning in 415kg of medications, OPP Deputy Commissioner Scott Todd said.