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Americans Turn Out in Droves for DEA’s Seventh National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

NOV 06 (MIAMI) – The American people have again responded in droves to the most recent DEA-led National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Last Saturday citizens turned in 647,211 pounds (324 tons) of expired and unwanted medications for safe and proper disposal at the 5,683 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. This is the second-largest collection of medications in seven Take-Back Days.  When the results of the seven events to date are combined, the DEA and its state, local, and tribal law-enforcement and community partners have removed over 3.4 million pounds (1,733 tons) of medication from circulation.  (A breakdown of the last Take-Back Day’s results by state can be seen at www.dea.gov.)

During this event, the DEA Miami Field Division partnered with 115 state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners to establish 164 collection sites across Florida and collected approximately 16,950 (8.5 tons) of unwanted or expired prescription drugs.  In Northern Florida, 1.8 tons were collected; Tampa area, 1.9 tons; Orlando area, 2.3 tons; and in South Florida, 2.5 tons (all weights approximate).  In the seven Take-Back events held to date, Floridians safely disposed approximately 51.8 tons of unwanted medication.

“Due to the success of the 7th Take Back event, approximately 17,000 pounds of potentially dangerous medication will be properly disposed and will not be misused or abused by anyone,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville.  “The DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to host these public safety events in our communities until there is a permanent solution for residents to safely dispose their unwanted medications.”  

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Prescription drugs that languish in home medicine cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high; more Americans (6.8 million) currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens like LSD, and inhalants (sniffed household products) combined, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

Take-Back Days are presently needed because the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as originally written didn’t provide a way for patients, caregivers, and pet owners to dispose of such controlled substance (CS) medications such as painkillers, sedatives, tranquilizers, and stimulants like ADHD drugs.  People were flushing their old meds down the toilet or throwing them in the trash, but in recent years medicines have been found in the nation’s water supplies, and medications were being retrieved from the trash by those who would abuse or sell them. 

To give people a more environmentally responsible and secure way to dispose of their meds, DEA launched its first Take-Back event in September 2010.  Four days later, Congress passed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which amends the CSA to allow people and, in some instances, 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.

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