Monday, November 21, 2016

Americans Flock to National Drug Take Back Day - Safe disposal of unused medications addresses opioid epidemic

Six years after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched its National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Americans continue to turn out in large numbers to rid their homes of unused medications, including controlled prescription drugs (CPDs) such as painkillers, tranquilizers, and stimulants. 

On October 22, 2016, nationally the public turned in 731,269 pounds—almost 366 tons—of medication to DEA and more than 4,000 of its community partners at almost 5,200 collection sites nationwide.  Locally in Van Buren County there were 27 pounds collected by the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Reserve Officers at the Drug Take Back Day Event.  Over the life of the program, 7.1 million pounds (more than 3,500 tons) of prescription drugs have been removed from medicine cabinets, kitchen drawers, and nightstands by citizens around the country and 193 pounds have been removed in Van Buren County. 

“Take back programs offer a safe, simple, and anonymous way to keep dangerous prescription drugs out of the wrong hands and prevent substance abuse,” said Chuck Rosenberg, Acting DEA Administrator. 

Unused medicines in the home are a problem because the majority of the 6.4 million Americans who abused CPDs in 2015, including the almost 4 million who abused prescription painkillers, say they obtained those drugs from friends and family, including from a home medicine cabinet, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health released last month.  Some painkiller abusers move on to heroin:  Four out of five new heroin users started with painkillers.  Almost 30,000 people—78 a day—died from overdosing on these painkillers or heroin in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In the last two years since new regulations made the disposal of CPDs easier for patients and their caregivers, many law enforcement agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics have begun continuous collection of these medications.  The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office now has an Rx Take Back Box in the lobby for Van Buren County Residents to dispose of their unused Rx and over the counter medications in.  No liquids, inhalers, or needles/sharps may be disposed of here.   In one week the Sheriff’s Office collected 21 pounds of medication.  Please continue to use this important service to dispose of your medications safely and without harming our environment.  Also, Lee’s Pharmacy continues to take back non-controlled substances at the pharmacy. 

For more information on Prescription Drug Take Backs please contact the SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or

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