WASHINGTON, D.C.– Americans participating in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 29 turned in more than 377,086 pounds (188.5 tons) of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at the 5,327 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states and U.S. territories. When the results of the three Take Back Days to date are combined, the DEA and its state, local, and tribal law-enforcement and community partners have removed 995,185 pounds (498.5 tons) of medication from circulation in the past 13 months.
“The amount of prescription drugs turned in by the American public during the past three Take-Back Day events speaks volumes about the need to develop a convenient way to rid homes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “DEA remains hard at work to establish just such a drug disposal process, and will continue to offer take-back opportunities until the proper regulations are in place.
“With the continued support and hard work of our more than 3,945 state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community partners, these three events have dramatically reduced the risk of prescription drug diversion and abuse, and increased awareness of this critical public health issue,” said Leonhart.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for one month. Often, some of these medicines languish in the home and are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high—more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, and inhalants combined, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Studies show that the majority of teens who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from family and friends for free, including from the home medicine cabinet. Many Americans simply do not know how to properly dispose of their unused or expired medicine, often flushing it down the toilet or throwing it away. These methods can pose both safety and environmental hazards.
Four days after DEA’s first Take-Back Day event September 25, 2010, Congress passed legislation amending the Controlled Substances Act to allow the DEA to develop a permanent process for people to safely and conveniently dispose of their prescription drugs. After President Obama signed the Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act of 2010 on October 12, DEA immediately began developing regulations for a more permanent solution.
The DEA’s Take-Back events are a significant piece of the White House’s prescription drug abuse prevention strategy entitled Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis developed and promoted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Purging America’s home medicine cabinets of unwanted or expired medications is one of four action items outlined in the strategy for reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion. The other action items include education of health care providers, patients, parents and youth; establishing prescription drug monitoring programs in all the states; and increased enforcement to address “doctor shopping” and pill mills.