Six years after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched its National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Americans continue to turn out in large numbers to rid their homes of unused medications, including controlled prescription drugs (CPDs) such as painkillers, tranquilizers, and stimulants.
The Pacific Northwest (PNW) made another great haul in DEA's 12th National Drug Take Back Day on October 22, 2016, and turned in 32,376 pounds (16.2 tons) of expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications. This was the third largest for the PNW since the inception of the Drug Take Back Day. When the results of the 12 DEA Take Back Days for the PNW are combined, the DEA and its state, local, and tribal law-enforcement and community partners have removed over 332,704 pounds (166.4 tons) of medication from circulation.
"This was another great effort by the residents of the Pacific Northwest in the battle against deterring prescription opioid abuse," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis.
Washington State had the second largest collection to date, and Washington and Idaho surpassed last April's collection. The following are the results broken down by state:
Washington -- 19,179 pounds (9.6 tons) removed from circulation. Idaho -- 3,190 pounds (1.6 tons) removed from circulation. Oregon -- 7,933 pounds (4.0 tons) removed from circulation. Alaska -- 2,074 pounds (1.0 ton) removed from circulation.
Collection sites nationwide resulted in the public turning in 731,269 pounds--almost 366 tons--of medication to DEA and more than 4,000 of its community partners at almost 5,200 collection sites. Over the life of the program, 7.1 million pounds (more than 3,500 tons) of prescription drugs have been removed from medicine cabinets, kitchen drawers, and nightstands by citizens around the country.
Unused medicines in the home are a problem because the majority of the 6.4 million Americans who abused CPDs in 2015, including the almost 4 million who abused prescription painkillers, say they obtained those drugs from friends and family, including from a home medicine cabinet, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health released last month. Some painkiller abusers move on to heroin: Four out of five new heroin users started with painkillers.
Almost 30,000 people--78 a day--died from overdosing on these painkillers or heroin in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the last two years since new regulations made the disposal of CPDs easier for patients and their caregivers, many law enforcement agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics have begun continuous collection of these medications. To visit one of these thousands of collection sites between Take Back Days, go to https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1 or www.rxdrugdropbox.org.