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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Alabama

Friday, September 19, 2014

DEA Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Sept. 27(Ridding Home Of Unused Drugs Discourages Abuse And Addiction)

BIRMINGHAM -- U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay A. Morris are encouraging residents of North Alabama to take advantage of DEA's next nationwide Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Sept. 27 to properly dispose of unused prescription drugs.

It is critical to get unused, unwanted and expired prescription drugs out of family medicine cabinets before they can fall into the hands of children and others who might use them to fuel addiction. A new U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regulation that will permit the establishment of long-term drop-off sites for disposal of prescription pills will go into effect later this year, permitting return of unused medication on an ongoing basis.

The U.S. Attorney and DEA, along with representatives of local law enforcement and the public health and addiction prevention and treatment communities, held a press conference today at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Birmingham to encourage people to take action at this last nationwide take-back day, rather than waiting for the permanent process to come online.

"Prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction, both at record rates in our community, are strongly linked," Vance said. "Each of us has the responsibility to take every step possible to prevent access and addiction to these drugs and bring down our unacceptably high overdose death rates," she said.

"Cultivating a habit of removing prescriptions from our medicine cabinets that are no longer necessary is a vital step in curtailing easy access, as there are many reports that children have their first contact with opiates at home, in the guise of prescription medication," Vance said.

"Over the past several years, Alabama has seen a significant increase in the use and abuse of opiate-based prescription drugs," Morris said. "Unfortunately, the untreated abuse of opiate-based drugs will lead to the beginning of a cycle of addition that will end in the use of heroin. As we all know, heroin overdose deaths are at record numbers in the Birmingham area," he said.

"The Prescription Drug Take-Back Initiative sponsored by DEA is one step in a comprehensive plan to remove a simple and often overlooked source of supply of drugs from potential abuse. I would urge parents, educators, civic organizations, faith-based organizations and all citizens to partner with law enforcement and help remove unused pharmaceuticals from the reach of the most vulnerable of potential drug abuse victims...our children," Morris said.

The DEA's ninth nationwide take-back event will give the public a convenient opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous drugs until more permanent drop-off sites are established after the agency's new regulation takes effect Oct. 9. The DEA currently has no plans to sponsor more nationwide Take-Back Days after Sept. 27, as authorized collectors, such as pharmacies, hospitals and clinics, begin offering the drop-off service.

The temporary collection sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 27. Local sites can be found on the DEA website at: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/ . The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. DEA, however, cannot accept liquids or needles.

Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that flushing unused medicines down the toilet, or throwing them in the trash, pose potential environmental and health hazards.

Last April, Americans turned in 390 tons (over 780,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at nearly 6,100 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,400 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Combined with DEA's previous Take-Back events, the agency and its partners have taken in more than 4.1 million pounds, or 2,100 tons, of pills.

The new DEA regulation announced last week by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder should enhance the public's ability to properly dispose of prescription drugs. The new policy authorizes pharmacies, hospitals and clinics to serve as authorized drop-off sites for unused medications. The new rule also enables long-term care facilities to collect controlled substances turned in by residents of those facilities, and it allows prescription drug users everywhere to directly mail in their unused medications to authorized collectors.

In 2011 alone, more than half of the 41,300 unintentional drug overdose deaths in the United States involved prescription drugs, and hazardous opioid pain relievers led to about 17,000 of those deaths, Holder said. Young people are especially susceptible to these dangers. The attorney general noted that nearly four in 10 teens who have misused or abused a prescription drug have obtained it from their parents' medicine cabinet.

Updated March 19, 2015