Record Number of Unwanted Drugs Collected During DEA's Latest Take-Back Day

Americans dropped off a record 447 tons of unwanted medications during the latest Drug Enforcement Administration National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Americans dropped off a record 447 tons of unwanted medications during the latest Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

This smashed the previous record of 390 tons collected in spring 2014 and outnumbered the amount of unused drugs collected during any of the previous 10 events since the initiative began in 2010.

The top 5 states with the largest collections last weekend were Texas (40 tons), California (32 tons), Wisconsin (31 tons), Illinois (24 tons), and Massachusetts (24 tons). In total, the DEA and more than 4200 of its state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners collected 893,498 pounds of unwanted medications at almost 5400 sites across all 50 states.

“These results show that more Americans than ever are taking the important step of cleaning out their medicine cabinets and making homes safe from potential prescription drug abuse or theft,” said DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg in a press release about this year’s event. “Unwanted, expired or unused prescription medications are often an unintended catalyst for addiction.”

Some of the most common medications involved in prescription drug overdose deaths are hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and methadone—the majority of which are obtained from home medicine cabinets, family, and friends. Drug overdoses are currently the leading cause of injury-related deaths, having surpassed car accidents.

“The numbers are shocking—approximately 46,000 Americans die each year from drug-related deaths. More than half of those are from heroin and prescription opioids,” Rosenberg stated in a press release about a previous National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

The initiative is 1 of 4 strategies under the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 to reduce prescription abuse in the United States. Additional strategies include education of health care providers, patients, parents and youth; establishing prescription drug monitoring programs in every state; and increased enforcement to address illegal methods of prescription drug diversion.

Even though the event has ended, pharmacists should continually educate patients on the importance of appropriate drug disposal to prevent accidental ingestion and prescription drug abuse and diversion.