Drug Diversion and Abuse: Rx Boxes 2013

Cmdr John Burke
Published Online: Thursday, April 18, 2013

Prescription drug take back programs keep dangerous medications out of the wrong hands.

Several months ago, I wrote about a brand new program that we started at the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI). The program started when I got a call from a nurse who had lost her mother and had a significant amount of leftover controlled substances that she needed to properly dispose of. The national take back program had just ended, and she didn’t want to wait 6 months until the next return day came around.

Through that conversation, NADDI began a program to distribute prescription drug take back boxes across the country. Having boxes at law enforcement locations took care of the problem of the nurse who called me after losing her mother and did not feel comfortable holding onto the medications and waiting for 6 months. It is well known that a considerable amount of the diversion of prescription drugs occurs right in the family medicine cabinet by teenagers and anyone to whom we give access to our bathrooms in our own homes. Getting rid of dangerous medications quickly is a wise move.

Since then, NADDI has distributed hundreds of these boxes through grants from Endo Pharmaceuticals, and by selling them to interested agencies at close to our cost. Law enforcement agencies have purchased their own boxes on many occasions. I have also seen an incredible outpouring of funds from various neighborhood coalitions and other groups that want to make sure there is at least 1 of these boxes in their community.

The guidelines are simple—the box needs to be located inside a law enforcement facility, preferably affixed to the floor or wall, and emptied by that agency on a regular basis. Since law enforcement handles these box contents and illicit drugs routinely, getting a destruction order for the disposed medications is nothing new. We strongly encourage the agencies to place wording that discourages putting liquids and needles into the box.

I thought maybe after the initial run more than 2 years ago that the demand would have slowed down for these boxes, but it is quite the contrary. As more people understand that having a national take back day every 6 months is good, having a box “at the ready” in the community during any time of the year makes even more sense. Since the boxes allow citizens to dispose of these drugs immediately, it allows for less time that these substances sit in their medicine cabinets and less time that they provide temptation to a whole host of people while making the homeowner an unwitting enabler.

We have had some great volume orders for these boxes, such as the Ohio Attorney General who purchased and had shipped more than 75 boxes to southern Ohio, where pharmaceutical abuse has been rampant. Cuyahoga County, which includes the city of Cleveland, just ordered 36 boxes for its program. Additionally, an upcoming announcement will be made public soon for a huge program in the state of Georgia.

As 2013 began, the box orders continue to flow in to NADDI—and we are ecstatic to fill them. We have strong hopes of another grant program being funded for this year; make sure any interested law enforcement folks you know watch the website at www.naddi.org.

As a pharmacist, if you are associated with a local group or coalition, talk to them and your local law enforcement agency about purchasing a box for installation at their department. Boxes cost $800 each for 1 and $700 each for 2 or more, with both prices including delivery. Larger orders can also receive additional discounts.

Much of the information on these boxes is at www.rxdrugdropbox.org, including the dimensions and guidelines. Encourage the general public to visit our website, where they can put in their zip code and find the closest box to their home. If you know a law enforcement entity that has a box, even if it isn’t NADDI’s, persuade them to enter the location on our website, if it isn’t already there, to help the public find convenient places to dispose of unused prescription medications.

Doing something to effectively get prescription medications that are outdated or unused out of our country’s medicine cabinets may be the best thing people can do to curb the national problem of drug diversion and abuse. Although it may seem like a small thing, it has huge potential impact—1 household at a time.


Cmdr Burke is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement and the current president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. He can be reached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, via the website www.rxdiversion .com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.


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