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On April 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public the opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. (The DEA cannot accept liquids, needles or sharps. Only pills or patches.) The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. This is the community’s eighth Takeback event held in the past three years.
Last October, Americans turned in 324 tons (over 647,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at over 4,114 sites operated by the DEA and its thousands of state and local law enforcement partners. When those results are combined with what was collected in the seven previous Takeback events, the DEA and its partners have collected and discarded over 3.4 million pounds—more than 1,700 tons—of pills to date.
The initiative addresses vital public safety and public health issues. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to prescription drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including prescriptions from home medicine cabinets.
People are often unaware that the typical methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—pose potential hazards to the environment, which can negatively impact the health of humans and animals.
The DEA is in the process of approving new regulations as part of the Safe and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow an “ultimate user” (that is, a patient or his or her family members) to rid the home of expired and/or no longer needed controlled medications—by delivering them to entities authorized by the Attorney General that have the means to destroy those medicines and reduce health risks. The proposed regulations would also allow the Attorney General to authorize long term care facilities to dispose of their residents’ controlled substances in certain instances.