US Expands Program to Dispose of Prescription Drugs

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Thanks to a new Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rule, more Americans will be able to safely and properly dispose of unwanted prescription drugs during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days.

The DEA is widening its drug take-back program, establishing additional drop-off locations around the country. The increased disposal of these prescription medications is expected to decrease addiction and abuse.

The Take-Back events are a significant piece of President Obama’s prescription drug abuse prevention strategy, which was released earlier this year by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. These events are also used to educate the public about the potential abuse of certain narcotic medications.

Additional Drop-Off Sites

According to a statement issued by Attorney General Eric Holder, prescription drugs can now be dropped off at hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, and a select number of additionally authorized sites. Long-term care facilities will also collect controlled substances that are turned in by residents. Can’t travel to a drop-off site? The DEA implemented a plan that lets prescription drug users mail their unused medications directly to collection sites using pre-paid packages.

“I am committed to ending the national epidemic that has already stolen too many lives and torn apart too many families,” Holder said.

The next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is set for September 27.

Related: First Look at Obama’s New Drug Control Strategy

The History of Prescription Take-Back Day

An estimated 6.5 million Americans over the age of 12 are non-medical users of prescription drugs.
An estimated 6.5 million Americans over the age of 12 are non-medical users of prescription drugs. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 never established a suitable plan to help patients dispose of old or unused narcotic or controlled medications. As a result, hundreds of thousands of patients flushed medications down the toilet or tossed them in the garbage.

The first National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day was held on September 25, 2010. A huge success, the event collected more than 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs for disposal. Seeing a valuable opportunity, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010. This Act effectively amended the CSA and allowed the DEA to develop safe, convenient, and responsible methods for U.S. citizens to dispose of old or unused prescription drugs.

A Look at the Numbers

Previous National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days have been extremely successful. Highlights include:

  • As of August 2014, medication drop-off sites have received and disposed of 4.1 million pounds (2,123 tons) of unwanted prescription drugs.
  • An astounding 6,072 official drop-off sites have been established around the country.
  • More than 4,423 state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners are working with the DEA to ensure the safe and proper disposal of unwanted, unused and expired prescription drugs.

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