Taking back unwanted prescription drugs

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How many of us can testify to having a medicine cabinet filled with bottles of this and that, odds and ends, and gizmos galore? The "catch-all" cabinet usually includes a lengthy list of safe, convenient items that serve a purpose, even if just for occasional use. However, when it comes to expired prescription drugs, the potential for harm shouldn't be part of the list.

As part of its public safety and public health campaign the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) partners with local law enforcement agencies to host the National Take-Back Initiative that provides the public a way to rid their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.

On April 26, the Williamsburg Sheriff's Office will partner with the DEA to host the local drug disposal event. Citizens can bring their pills to the Williamsburg Pharmacy between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The DEA cannot accept liquids or needles or sharps, only pills or patches. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.
The DEA says medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

According to the DEA, last October, Americans turned in 324 tons (over 647,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at over 4,114 sites operated by the DEA and its thousands of state and local law enforcement partners.  When those results are combined with what was collected in its seven previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 3.4 million pounds—more than 1,700 tons—of pills.
DEA is in the process of approving new regulations that implement the Safe and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which amends the Controlled Substances Act to allow an “ultimate user” (that is, a patient or their family member or pet owner) of controlled substance medications to dispose of them by delivering them to entities authorized by the Attorney General to accept them.  The act also allows the Attorney General to authorize long term care facilities to dispose of their residents’ controlled substances in certain instances.

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