Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg
- Safe disposal of unused medications addresses opioid epidemic
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Six years after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched its National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Americans continue to turn out in large numbers to rid their homes of unused medications, including controlled prescription drugs (CPDs) such as painkillers, tranquilizers, and stimulants.
The public turned in 731,269 pounds—almost 366 tons—of medication to DEA Oct. 22, and more than 4,000 of its community partners at almost 5,200 collection sites nationwide. Over the life of the program, 7.1 million pounds (more than 3,500 tons) of prescription drugs have been removed from medicine cabinets, kitchen drawers, and nightstands by citizens around the country.
“Take back programs offer a safe, simple, and anonymous way to keep dangerous prescription drugs out of the wrong hands and prevent substance abuse,” Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said.
Unused medicines in the home are a problem because the majority of the 6.4 million Americans who abused CPDs in 2015, including the almost 4 million who abused prescription painkillers, say they obtained those drugs from friends and family, including from a home medicine cabinet, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health released last month. Some painkiller abusers move on to heroin: Four out of five new heroin users started with painkillers. Almost 30,000 people—78 a day—died from overdosing on these painkillers or heroin in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the last two years since new regulations made the disposal of CPDs easier for patients and their caregivers, many law enforcement agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics have begun continuous collection of these medications. To visit one of these thousands of collection sites between Take Back Days, go to https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1 or www.rxdrugdropbox.org.