Do you have a collection of unused medications in your bathroom cabinet? You’re not alone! Most Americans amass an assortment of unneeded, unwanted, and expired prescriptions over time. Although you might assume it’s harmless to store these drugs in a cabinet or drawer, in fact, they present a significant risk because they could be found and consumed by the wrong person. To encourage Americans to safely dispose of unwanted prescription medications, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and local agencies host a bi-annual event: National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. This year’s spring event was cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions. The fall event will be held Saturday, October 24, 2020. Learn more about the event and its goals below.
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day 2020
What is the goal of the event?
In sponsoring this event, the DEA and local agencies aim to collect potentially dangerous prescriptions medications that are unused, unwanted, or expired and dispose of them safely. This is a convenient way for citizens to get rid of their unused drugs responsibly, and it also helps educate the general public about prescription drug abuse.
When is the event?
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will occur on Saturday, October 24, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in all 50 states. This is a free event, and you may drop off your unused prescriptions anonymously. To find a collection site near you, use the Collection Site Locator on the DEA’s website or phone their Call Center at 1-800-882-9539.
What types of drugs are accepted on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day?
Collection sites will accept pills and patches. They will not accept liquids, needles, or sharps.
How successful is this event?
According to the DEA, the previous 18 National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days have succeeded in rounding up more than 8.1 million pounds of unused drugs. The last event, which occurred in October 2019, allowed officials to dispose of close to 900,000 pounds of drugs, collected from 6,174 collection sites.
Why is it important to safely dispose of unused and unwanted prescription medications?
It is never a good idea to hold onto prescription drugs if they are no longer needed, as they could end up in the wrong hands. According to a Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs nationally representative survey, only 2 in 10 adults who have dangerous medications lock them up. Depending on where your unwanted drugs are stored, anyone who enters your home could have access to them. According to the DEA, based on a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, of the controlled prescription drugs being abused by 6.4 million Americans, the majority were obtained from family members and friends (source). The drugs were often stolen from medicine cabinets. So keep your prescription drugs in a safe, secure, and private place, and dispose of the drugs when you no longer need them.
Properly storing and disposing of drugs is especially important if you have opioid painkillers, as they present a greater risk for addiction and overdose. As you likely know, we’re currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., and approximately 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose each day (source). To ensure that you don’t unwittingly assist an addicted person in obtaining drugs to abuse, dispose of these medications if you do not need them.
In addition, if they are not properly stored or disposed of, prescription drugs may cause accidental poisoning in children. Sometimes children find drugs around the house, and they may mistake colorful pills for candy. Do not assume that a child-safety cap will prevent children from accessing medications, and don’t underestimate the harm a single pill can cause. If your child consumes just one long-acting opioid, for example, it could be fatal (source). In addition, don’t assume that only opioid painkillers are dangerous. Seemingly harmless medications used to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes can be very dangerous if ingested by a child (source). Many grandparents take such medications daily and leave them on countertops unsupervised, not realizing their grandchildren are at risk.
Where can I learn more about prescription drugs and safe drug disposal?
- Tips to Prevent Poisonings (from the CDC)
- Drug Disposal Information (from the DEA)
- Get Smart About Drugs, a DEA resource for parents, educators, and caregivers
- Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locations where you can safely dispose of drugs year-round
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