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Press Release

Drug Enforcement Administration collects record number of unused pills as part of its 14th Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama
The public returns record number of potentially dangerous prescription drugs

WASHINGTON – Americans nationwide did their part to reduce the opioid crisis by bringing the DEA and its more than 4,200 local and tribal law enforcement partners a record-setting 912,305 pounds – 456 tons – of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs for disposal at more than 5,300 collection sites. That is almost six tons more than was collected at last spring’s event. This brings the total amount of prescription drugs collected by DEA since the fall of 2010 to 9,015,668 pounds, or 4,508 tons.


In Alabama, DEA collected more than 7,000 pounds – 3.5 tons – of unused and unwanted prescription drugs for disposal at its more than 52 collection sites across the state.


Now in its eighth year, this event continues to remove ever-higher amounts of opioids and other medicines from the nation’s homes, where they could be stolen and abused by family members and visitors, including children and teens. The DEA action came just days after President Donald J. Trump announced the mobilization of his entire administration to address drug addiction and opioid abuse by directing the declaration of a Nationwide Public Health Emergency to address the opioids crisis.


“In the midst of the worst drug crisis in American history, drug abuse prevention has never been more important,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  “And at the Department of Justice, it’s what we do every day.  By taking dangerous drugs off of our streets, we keep addiction from spreading. One of the most important ways we do that is through the DEA’s semi-annual Prescription Drug Take Back Days. The latest Take Back day was the most successful yet, safely disposing of a record amounts of drugs. I have no doubt that will save lives. At a time like this, this event is having more of an impact than ever. I want to thank all of our local law enforcement partners who helped at all 5,300 collection sites to make this possible – and everyone who participated. They're helping us end this crisis one pill at a time.”


“Properly disposing of pills left in home medicine cabinets means fewer pills making it into the hands of young people experimenting with drugs, possibly leading to more drug abuse and possible addiction,” said Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town. “The success of DEA’s fall Take-Back indicates people are learning how dangerous the abuse of prescription pills, particularly opioid painkillers, can be and are taking the right step to reduce the amount of pills that make it onto the streets,” he said.


“More people start down the path of addiction through the misuse of opioid prescription drugs than any other substance. The abuse of these prescription drugs has fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic, which has led to the highest rate of overdose deaths this country has ever seen,” said Acting DEA Administrator Robert W. Patterson. “This is a crisis that must be addressed from multiple angles. Educating the public and removing these medications from households across the Unites States prevents misuse where it often starts.”


“I am pleasantly surprised with the results of our efforts during the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bret Hamilton in Alabama. “The fall event has historically been slightly less effective than the spring event but not this year. Hopefully this means the word is getting out about the dangers of narcotics being left readily available, tempting our loved-ones with possible life-altering addiction,” he said. “We can never be too safe with highly addictive opioids. Get them out of your house.”


This year, DEA worked with its tribal law enforcement partners to set up 115 collection sites on tribal lands. Opioid addiction impacts Native American communities just as it does all parts of American society. By partnering with FBI, BIA, and tribal law enforcement, the DEA was able to greatly expand tribal participation in the Take Back program. DEA remains committed to supporting public safety in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.  


This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. 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, 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. DEA launched its prescription drug take back program when both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration advised the public that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines – flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash – posed potential safety and health hazards.


Helping people to dispose of potentially harmful prescription drugs is just one way DEA is working to reduce the addiction and overdose deaths plaguing this country due to opioid medications. 


Complete results for DEA’s fall Take Back Day are available at DEA’s next Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 28, 2018.



Updated November 7, 2017