National Drug Take-Back Day Being Promoted With New Google Tool

By Paul Gaita 04/26/18

National Drug Take-Back Day takes place across the country on Saturday, April 28 from 10AM to 2PM.

Man examining prescription pill bottle in front of medicine cabinet

Internet giant Google will use its sizable online presence to help promote an initiative by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fight the opioid epidemic by taking unused prescription drugs out of circulation.

Google has created a tool to help users locate where they can safely dispose of excess prescription medications as part of the semiannual National Take Back Day, which takes place across the country on Saturday, April 28.

As the Washington Post reported, Google's collaboration with the DEA comes at a time when online companies are facing criticism from the federal government and others have criticized online companies for their perceived lack of care in keeping their platforms free of drug-related content and sales.

An April 25 post on Google's blog by Susan Molinari, vice president of public policy for the Americas, outlines the tech company's strategy for the take back event.

"The DEA has found that one way Americans can help prevent drug abuse and addiction is to properly dispose of unneeded or expired prescription drugs," she wrote. "Yet many people aren't aware of, or can't easily find, prescription drug disposal programs in their communities."

To that end, Google and the DEA collaborated to create a locator tool that can direct users to a disposal location near their address or in their zip code. More than 5,500 locations across the United States will be accepting unused or expired medication on April 28; the collections are anonymous and the medication is safely discarded after being dropped off.

According to data from the DEA, more than 5,300 collection sites and 4,274 law enforcement participated in the last Take Back Day event in October 2017, which collected 456 tons of prescription drugs.

However, as the Post noted, the agency does not state how much of that amount was opioid medication.

The locator tool is just one of several initiatives between Google and the DEA, as well as with other organizations. In the blog post, Molinari writes that the company is working with the agency and several state governments to "gather data on year-round take back options for future Google Maps integrations."

Google has also matched $750,000 in gifts and other grants to help expand the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids' Parent Helpline. The service provides free counseling to parents who may be contending with their children's dependency issues. The grants are the latest collaboration between the tech company and the Partnership since their first team-up in 2015.

As the Post noted, Google's efforts come on the heels of criticism for what has been viewed as a lack of effort on the part of tech companies and internet providers to police their sites for prescription opioids sales and offers on their sites.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called for an initiative that would require providers to find solutions to these problems, and announced that his agency would meet with company executives to determine strategies.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was asked by lawmakers during his recent Capitol Hill hearing to exert greater pressure on the presence of prescription drugs on his site, and Instagram responded to three years of requests to remove accounts and hashtags allegedly linked to the sale of opioids.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.