Last updated on October 30, 2019
On October 28, 2017, local communities across the county will participate in the 14th “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day“. The Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement organizations coordinate Take Back Day events every April and October. The goal is two-fold: reduce the potential for misuse of unused prescription medications and educate the public about safe drug disposal methods.
In April 2017, 5498 drop-off sites collected 450 tons of prescription medications. This record-setting collection reflects the public’s increasing participation in proper drug disposal as their awareness of the dangers of improper drug disposal grows.
Unused Prescription Medications May Contribute to Drug Abuse
A 2015 study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 60% of adults who report misusing opiods didn’t have a prescription for the drugs. It also found that 38% of adults had an opiod prescription at some point in 2015 and that many didn’t consume the entire prescription:
The major culprit behind the misuse is excessive prescriptions, the survey found, with doctors providing patients with too many pills for too long. After delivering a baby, for example, women typically use half of what they’re given, said Stephen Patrick, a Vanderbilt University neonatologist who was not involved in the study.
Prescription drug use among teens increased 33% between 2008 and 2012, with 24% of high school students reporting that they had abused prescription medications. Teens often view prescription medications as being less dangerous than “street drugs,” possibly because they see their parents taking them. 56% of teens who misuse prescription medications get them out of the medicine cabinet at home.
A 2012 study found that 85% of young injection drug users used opiod painkillers non-medically before moving on to heroin. The most common methods for obtaining opiods were family, friends, and their own prescriptions.
What seems like harmless experimentation can lead to lifelong struggles with addiction. Unused medications can represent a real danger to other family members and the community.
Dangers of Unsafe Disposal Methods
As the public learns more about the dangers of keeping unused medications in the home, safe drug disposal becomes a more compelling issue. Currently, the two most common disposal methods used by consumers – flushing drugs down the toilet and putting them in the trash – can contribute to health and environmental safety problems.
- Accidental poisoning: Medications placed in trash containers may represent a danger to children and pets. The Journal of Pediatrics reported in 2012 that over half a million children aged 5 and up are “exposed to pharmaceuticals in a potential poisoning event” each year. 95% of these events are due to “self-exposure,” meaning that children came across unattended medication and sampled it on their own. In 2016, “human prescription medications” topped the list of the ASPCA’s annual list of “Top Ten Pet Toxins.”
- Drug abuse: Addictive drugs change the way the mind works and exert a powerful force as the brain craves the euphoric feeling the drugs can produce. People will do almost anything to get it – even if it means taking drugs out of trashcans.
- Water and wildlife contamination: Levels of pharmaceutical residues in wastewater have risen in recent years, but studies of the health and environmental affects show mixed results. Levels are increasing as the overall population consumes more prescription medication. However, scientists report that a substantial percentage of residue in the water supply is due to intentional disposal down sinks and toilets. Conventional wastewater treatment facilities aren’t designed to remove many trace-level contaminants including pharmaceutical residues, leading to concerns about unintentional consumption by both humans and animals.
Poisoning, abuse, and environmental contamination were all issues that promoted the establishment of National Drug Take Back events. Find an event near you or get more drug disposal information at the DEA Web site.
Challenges of Routine Pharmaceutical Disposal
The “take back” events allow individuals to dispose of prescription drugs only twice a year. There is a need for more routine disposal options. Organizations, such as retail pharmacies and law enforcement agencies, can play a part in helping their communities dispose of medications throughout the year.
Sharps Compliance offers two efficient and easy-to-manage DEA-compliant disposal options:
- Sharps’ MedSafe Medication Disposal System. This DEA-compliant medication collection kiosk can be placed in DEA collector locations, such as retail pharmacies, hospitals and clinics with on-site pharmacies, and long-term care facilities, as well as narcotic treatment programs and police stations. Each kiosk is made of 14-gauge powder-coated steel and comes with serialized, pre-addressed, prepaid, leak-proof inner liners. Consumer unused drugs are deposited into the kiosk where they fall into the liner. When the liner is full, the location ships it back via UPS to Sharps Compliance’s DEA-approved facility for destruction.
- Takeaway Medication Recovery System: This USPS-mailback option is designed for individual consumer use and small organizations such as hospices. The mailback envelopes are designed for small quantities of an individual’s unused medication. For larger quantities, our specially-designed boxes are available. Users mail the prepaid, pre-addressed envelopes and boxes via USPS to Sharps’ DEA-approved facility for destruction.
Sharps Compliance is proud to offer safe, convenient pharmaceutical disposal solutions to institutions as well as individuals. We encourage all households to participate in National Drug Take Back Day events. However, we understand that many organizations and individuals require more robust disposal options. Let us help you find the right DEA-compliant pharmaceutical waste disposal solution for your needs.