Drop Off Your Old, Unwanted Pills This Saturday On National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

By Victoria Kim 04/27/17

The DEA hosts the bi-annual event in hopes of preventing pills from being diverted for non-medical use.

Variety of medicine bottles behind pills spilling from fallen bottle.

This Saturday, April 29, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Thousands of collection sites across the U.S.—police departments, hospitals, pharmacies, and community centers—will be open from 10am-2pm to help the public dispose of old or unwanted pills. 

The twice-annual event collected nearly 447 tons (about 894,000 pounds) of pills at last April’s take-back day. According to a statement by police in Dearborn, Michigan, the previous 11 take-back days amassed over 3,200 tons of pills for disposal—that’s about 6.4 million pounds.

By hosting the take-back events, the Drug Enforcement Administration is hoping to prevent pills from being diverted for non-medical use, or abuse. The DEA says that 8 out of 10 heroin users start using heroin because they can no longer obtain or afford prescription opioids.

According to the CDC, most people who abuse prescription opioids get them from a friend or family member. Most are given, while others buy or steal them from loved ones’ medicine cabinets.

Abuse of prescription opioids has quadrupled in tandem with the sales of these drugs since 1999—which has led to more fatal overdoses. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. Out of 52,404 fatal drug overdoses in 2015—20,101 of them involved prescription painkillers, and 12,990 of them involved heroin, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

The high rate of prescription drug abuse has given rise to a growing market for tamper-proof pill boxes and other methods of storing medication—such as locked pill boxes, and prescription pill bottle caps with built-in timers or built-in combination locks. It’s no longer enough that meds come in child-proof packaging. 

It's also important to properly dispose of unwanted meds because methods like flushing them down the toilet or tossing them in the trash can be hazardous to the environment and public health.

“Unwanted, expired or unused prescription medications are often an unintended catalyst for addiction,” said DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg in a May 2016 statement. “Take-Back events like these raise awareness of the opioid epidemic and offer the public a safe and anonymous way to help prevent substance abuse.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr