188 tons of prescription drugs returned for safe and proper disposal
during DEA's national prescription drug take back event
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Americans participating in the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) second National Prescription Drug Take-Back event Saturday turned in more than 376,593 pounds (188 tons) of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at the 5,361 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states. This is 55 percent more than the 242,000 pounds (121 tons) the public brought in during last September’s event.
Four days after last fall’s Take-Back Day, Congress passed legislation amending the Controlled Substances Act to allow the DEA to develop a process for people to safely dispose of their prescription drugs. DEA immediately began developing this process after President Obama signed the Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act of 2010 on October 12.
“The amount of prescription drugs turned in by the American public during the first two Take-Back events is simply staggering—309 tons—and represents a clear need for a convenient way to rid homes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “DEA is hard at work establishing a drug disposal process and will continue to offer take-back opportunities until the proper regulations are in place.
“With the support and hard work of our local law enforcement and community partners, these events have not only dramatically reduced the risk of prescription drug diversion and abuse, but have also increased awareness of this critical public health issue,” said Leonhart.
“Responding to our Nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic requires a sustained effort from government, the private sector, the medical community, as well as families and individuals,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “The unprecedented amount of prescription drugs turned in by citizens last week will keep dangerous, addictive drugs from being abused. I commend the DEA for its successful nationwide prescription drug take-back day and for their work to make it easier for communities to stay healthy, while safeguarding the environment.”
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—more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined, according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Studies show that teens who abuse prescription drugs often obtain them from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, many Americans do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicine, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away – both potential safety and health hazards.
The DEA’s Take-Back events are a significant piece of the White House’s prescription drug abuse prevention strategy released last month by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Purging America’s home medicine cabinets of neglected drugs is one of four strategies for reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion laid out in Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis. The other strategies 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.
Numerous national organizations joined the DEA and its state and local partners in putting on last weekend’s Take Back Day, including the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; the American Association of Poison Control Centers; the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; D.A.R.E. America; the Federation of State Medical Boards; the U. S. Health Resources and Services Administration; the International Association of Chiefs of Police; the National Association of Attorneys General; the National Family Partnership; the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy; the National District Attorneys Association; the National Sheriffs’ Association; and The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
FROM: Drug Enforcement Agency