John S. Comer, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented, “The staggering total of 188.5 tons of prescription drugs turned in during the National Take Back event is a step in the right direction to stem the tide of prescription drug abuse in America. The total number of drugs taken back in Georgia (3,794.35 pounds ) speaks volumes about the problem of unused and unneeded prescriptions, the danger they pose to the community and the communities commitment to making prescription drug abuse a top priority in the state.”
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.