National Drug Take-Back Day: In the Shadow of Opioid Abuse Crisis, Now More Important Than Ever

By: Douglas C. Throckmorton

There were more than 22,000 deaths in the United States relating to prescription drug overdose in 2010, many of which were due to intentional misuse and abuse. More than half of all abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, which includes many instances in which users simply take these drugs from other people’s medicine cabinets.

Douglas C. Throckmorton, M.D.This Saturday, April 26, 2014, is National Drug Take-Back Day. It’s the eighth nationwide opportunity in four years for the American public to clean out their medicine cabinets of expired, unused, or unwanted prescription drugs, including prescription drugs for pain, like opioids. It’s always a good idea to keep a household free of medications that are no longer needed, and this opportunity to get rid of all of your un-needed drugs, including opioids, is more important than ever.

The facts about opioids are sobering. Here are just a few from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • In 2010, Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses involved prescription opioid painkillers;
  • In 2011, the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids was responsible for more than 420,000 emergency department visits, a number that nearly doubled in just five years;
  • In 2012, more than 12 million people reported using prescription opioids for non-medical reasons, that is, using them without a prescription or for the feeling they cause.

So, bring your medications of any kind for disposal on Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to a collection site near you. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. And it’s easy. Simply go online and key in your ZIP Code, and the site will tell you the nearest drug take-back location. Past drug take-back days have been highly successful. Across the country, more than three million pounds, or 1,733 tons, of prescription medications were collected.

I’d also like to take a moment to remind you that safe disposal of medicine is a year-round activity. For times when there is not an available take-back operation available, FDA’s Disposal of Unused Medicine site offers valuable ‘do-it-yourself’ safety information. As one example, the site includes a list of highly potent medicines that should be disposed of by flushing down the toilet or sink when they’re no longer needed.

FDA, along with many other Federal Agencies, is working on reducing prescription drug misuse and abuse in many ways and we can use your help on this important activity. Please take a careful look around your home, gather unnecessary prescription drugs, and take them to you Drug Take Back collection site. Together we can make difference.

Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., is Deputy Center Director for Regulatory Programs in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

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