Drug Enforcement Administration

DEA Headquarters

May 08, 2014

Contact: National Media Affairs Office

Phone Number: (202) 307-1000

DEA’S National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days Meet A Growing Need For Americans

WASHINGTON - Americansnationwide showed their support for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’(DEA’s) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day program by dropping off more prescription pills than ever this past Saturday. 

After seven previous Take Back Days spread over almost four years, 780,158 - (390 - tons) of pills were brought to the 6,072 - collection sites that DEA and its 4,423 - state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners set up on April 26 so the public could discard unwanted, unused and expired prescription drugs from medicine cabinets, bedside tables, and kitchen drawers.  When added to that collected at previous DEA-coordinated Take-Back events, 4.1 million - (2,123 - tons) of prescription medications have been removed from circulation. 

“DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back events provide an obviously needed and valued service to the public, while also reducing prescription drug abuse and trafficking,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.  “By taking these medications off their hands, our citizens know they have made their own families and communities safer.  We continue to work toward making the process for disposing of controlled substance medications by users and their caregivers even easier by creating regulations that will enable the public to regularly, safely, and conveniently dispose of such medicines when they are no longer needed or wanted.”

The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day aims to provide a safe, secure, and environmentally responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse and trafficking of medications.  This is important because the non-medical use of controlled (CS) medications is at an all-time high, with 6.8 million Americans reporting having abused prescription drugs in 2012, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and (NSDUH) released in 2013.  That same study revealed more than 54 percent of people who abuse prescription pain relievers got them through friends or relatives, a statistic that includes raiding the family medicine cabinet. 

The DEA’s Take-Back events are a significant piece of the Obama administration’s strategy for preventing prescription drug abuse and trafficking, which also includes education of health care providers, patients, parents and youth; enhancing and encouraging the establishment of prescription drug monitoring programs in all the states; and increased enforcement to address doctor shopping and pill mills.

Take-Back Days are presently needed because the Controlled Substances (CSA) as originally written did not provide a way for patients, caregivers, and pet owners to dispose of such CS medications as painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants like ADHD drugs.  People were flushing their old meds down the toilet or throwing them in the trash. 

DEA launched its first Take-Back event in September 2010, after which the President signed  the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which amended the CSA to allow people, including residents of long term care facilities, to regularly, conveniently, and safely dispose of their CS medications by delivering them to entities authorized by the Attorney General to accept them. DEA is in the process of finalizing regulations to implement the Act, publishing on December 21, 2012, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Disposal of Controlled Substances that presented possible disposal options.

DEA US Badge
United States Drug Enforcement Administration DEA.gov is an official site of the U.S. Department of Justice