CHICAGO (CBS) —  In the wrong hands, they can ruin a life.

The drugs are opioids. Overdoses are up 66 percent in Illinois from 2016 to 2017.

That’s why health officials urge everyone to safely discard leftover prescriptions in drop boxes like ones found at police stations, pharmacies and even libraries.

In this original report, Roseanne Tellez took cameras behind-the-scenes in Lake County to see what happens to those drugs.

Every two months law enforcement lines up outside the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, dropping off boxes of drugs which are carted in, sorted and tossed into bins.

All under the watchful eye of Lake County Deputy Roman Buchberger.

The chain of custody is important.

“Integrity means everything with a program like this,” said Buchberger.

That’s because the drugs that are tossed are in high demand. They’re highly addictive opioids like Oxycontin, Hydrocodone and Vicodin.

“If it’s out there, it can be abused, it can be sold,” added Buchberger. “It’s a contributing factor to the problem that we’re seeing right now.”

The drugs are counted and then placed into barrels of gasoline where they disintegrate. Lake County expects to collect 13,000 pounds of prescriptions this year.

With a street value of about $500,000.

“In 2012, we had 45 deaths from opioid overdoses in this county. Last year we had 12,” said Bill Gentes of the Lake County Health Department who credits the initiative.

“I believe one of the major reasons is because we’re getting opioids out of people’s medicine cabinets,” said Gentes.

A place where young people often turn to feed their addiciton.

“They open the medicine cabinet and they find some Vicodin from a tooth extraction you had for years ago that you forgot about.”

But when people turn in those unused drugs, they are helping fight a deadly epidemic.

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