National Take-Back Initiative Marks Shift in U.S. Drug Policy

By John Lavitt 09/10/14

Drop-off boxes for prescription drugs have been cropping up all across the country.

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Drop-off boxes in West Hollywood, Calif. Photo via

On September 27, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will take place in the United States. Although the national day reflects a past trend towards local events designed to inspire communities to safely dispose of expired and unneeded prescription drugs, it also marks a growing shift in policy. The new policy is the establishment of permanent prescription drug drop-off boxes at police and sheriff stations across the country.

As described on the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Diversion Control website, “The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.”

A growing number of police departments are addressing this safe prescription drug disposal concern by installing permanent prescription drug drop-off boxes to allow people to properly dispose of such drugs.

To help with the cost, the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators is providing grants to police departments to pay for the drop-off boxes. Since pharmacies are not allowed to take back certain drugs, such as pain relievers and stimulants because they are controlled substances, take-back days have been hosted by the Drug Enforcement Administration since September of 2010.

Since improper disposal methods pose safety and environmental dangers, it became clear that a more permanent solution was needed. A common concern is people flushing old prescriptions down the toilet. The drugs could eventually end up back in the water supply. Cmdr. Geoff Huff of the Ames, Iowa, police department described the flushing of prescription drugs as the, "worst thing you can do…I really don't want to be drinking everyone's' prescription drugs in my drinking water."

The National Association of Drug Diversion Investigator's Rx Drug Drop Box program has donated over 400 boxes across the country. California and New York have been particularly active with prescription drug boxes located across both states. California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery has the AwareRX website to help people find such boxes near them.

If you want to find a prescription drug drop-off box near you, you can go to the National Take Back Initiative Collection Site Search page for help.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.