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DEA’S National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days Meet a Growing Need for Americans

MAY 08 (WASHINGTON)–Americans nationwide showed their support for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s (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 pounds (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 pounds (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 substance (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 Health (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 Act (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.

Date of Take-Back Day

Pounds Collected

Sept. 25, 2010

242,000

April 30, 2011

376,593

October 29, 2011

377,086

April 28, 2012

552,161

Sept. 29, 2012

488,395

April 27, 2013

742,497

Oct. 26, 2013

647,211

April 26, 2014

780,158

 


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