DEA to Lead Another Drug Take-Back Day


Expanding upon efforts to safely dispose of unused prescription drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced plans for the 10th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Expanding upon efforts to safely dispose of unused prescription drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced plans for the 10th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

In a media teleconference today, DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg discussed the background of the events and explained why the administration continues to lead them.

In just his 10th or 11th week on the job, one of the most shocking things Rosenberg has learned is that around 120 people die each day from a drug overdose—a “horrifying” number, he said. Heroin and opioids are responsible for a large portion of these accidental overdoses, he added.

Rosenberg noted there is a “very strong” causal and correlative connection between heroin and opioid use. In fact, he said 4 out of 5 heroin users started with prescription pills.

Some of the most common medications involved in prescription drug overdose fatalities are hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and methadone, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To combat the number of daily drug overdoses, the DEA has led efforts to make unneeded medications inaccessible.

The last drug take-back day it conducted was in September 2014, when more than 4000 members of law enforcement collected unused drugs from nearly 5500 sites. In this last collection alone, 309 tons of expired, unwanted, or unneeded prescription drugs in pill form were collected.

The total amount of drugs collected during the past 9 national take-back days weighed in at 2411 tons, according to a DEA statement released after the most recent event.

“I think the next logical question is: has that made a difference? It’s hard to measure,” Rosenberg said.

But with unused prescription drugs coming out of medicine cabinets, he argued, there are fewer opportunities for children to get addicted to opioids and transition to heroin.

“The more we get this poison out of medicine cabinets and off the streets, the better off we are,” Rosenberg said.

The goal for the drug take-back days is 2-fold. For one, the day is educational. Rosenberg said he wanted “people to know what we know: how dangerous these drugs are.” The DEA also wants to inform individuals about the connection between opioid use and heroin use.

The second reason is the simple act of collection. Rosenberg said the DEA’s objective is to make a difference by getting unused drugs out of homes. While the initiative is primarily aimed at private homes, long-term care facilities may also dispose of unwanted drugs, as well.

Rosenberg said the DEA’s diversion team will work harder to promote transparency and communicate more with pharmacists, physicians, and prescribers to prevent overprescribing and its effects.

Most states will see the prescription drug take-back day occur on September 26, 2015, but Delaware and Pennsylvania will host the day on September 12, 2015. In all states, the event will occur from 10 am to 2 pm local time.

For those interested in disposing of unwanted drugs, there will be forthcoming information on the DEA website and an 800-number to call for more details about sites that will be collecting unused medications.

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