Latest Drug Take Back Day Collects Nearly 1M Pounds of Prescription Drugs

By: Stericycle

The most recent National Prescription Drug Take Back Day – hosted bi-annually by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – saw record participation from law enforcement partners and collection locations. On April 27, 2019, nearly 5,000 partners operated more than 6,200 collection sites across the country.

In less than 24 hours, these sites collected close to 940,000 pounds of expired or unused medications from the public. That’s the equivalent weight of more than three billion tablets of the opioid OxyContin, though the collection included both opioid and non-opioid medications.

The DEA has collected and destroyed close to 12 million pounds of unwanted drugs since Take Back Days began in 2010.

Health Risk

Leftover and unused medications kept in the home are a significant and often overlooked source of drug abuse and overdose risks. Two-thirds of teens who misused pain relievers in the past year say that they got them from family and friends, including their home medicine cabinets. Four in five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription drugs.

In addition to the risks of fueling the opioid crisis by keeping leftover opioids in the home, keeping excess pills of any kind in the home can also lead to both accidental and intentional poisoning deaths.

Environmental Impact

There’s also an environmental impact to improper disposal of leftover medications.

Pharmaceutical contamination of our groundwater, rivers, lakes and streams is a growing problem. Millions of Americans are disposing unused medications down the sink or toilet – even though sewage treatment plants and septic systems were never designed to filter out these contaminants.

As a result, traces of pharmaceutical drugs have been identified in the drinking water supplies of millions of Americans. A study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1999 and 2000 found measurable amounts of one or more medications in 80% of the waters sampled. The drugs identified included antibiotics, antidepressants, blood thinners, heart medications, hormones and painkillers. Although researchers are uncertain about human health effects, there’s evidence for pharmaceuticals in the water affecting aquatic life, particularly fish.

Why Drug Take Back

Drug take back is the only safe way to remove leftover medications from the home and the environment. Removing these medications from the home and the environment – by rendering them completely destroyed and non-retrievable per DEA guidelines via drug take back programs and incineration – is a crucial prevention strategy to protect public health, the environment and the quality of our drinking water.

Take Back Days are a great way for communities to clear out their medicine cabinets and safely dispose of their leftover medications, but these events only happen once every six months and aren’t accessible to everyone. Stockpiling leftover medications for six months between Take Back Days still creates a significant drug diversion and poisoning risk.

Make Take Back Day Every Day

The solution to this problem is to make Take Back Day every day with year-round drug take back programs. These programs include drug collection kiosks that can be installed in pharmacies, hospitals, and law enforcement offices. At-home mail back options are another safe and environmentally-friendly solution for medication disposal.

Year-round drug take back solutions can be funded by local governments, pharmacies, hospitals, law enforcement, drug abuse prevention nonprofits, employers, and extended producer responsibility legislation.

If your local pharmacy, hospital or law enforcement office doesn’t have a year-round drug take back option available, mark the next Take Back Day (October 26, 2019) on your calendar. Be sure to keep your leftover medications securely stored until then.

Stericycle Environmental Solutions’ award-winning suite of drug take back solutions, including medication collection kiosks and Seal&Send medication mail back envelopes, can help protect your community year-round. Click here to learn more.