Overdose deaths from the misuse of prescription drugs has reached epidemic proportions in our country. The diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances is the root of this epidemic and we can take steps to prevent it. Statistics reveal the majority of all people who use pharmaceutical controlled substances for non-medical reasons get the drugs from friends or family for free. Sometimes the abuse is an unknown condition and prescriptions are willingly shared to address claims of pain or the prescriptions are acquired as the result of theft. One critical step in preventing this diversion is for consumers and legitimate end users to properly dispose of their unused, unwanted or expired pharmaceutical controlled substances. Consumers are urged to do their part and properly dispose of unused medications to prevent theft or other diversion of their prescriptions into the hands of addicts.
Programs have been implemented to encourage Americans to properly dispose of medications that pose a serious safety hazard if left in their residential medicine cabinet. The best and safest method of disposing of pharmaceuticals is for consumers to deliver their unwanted medications to an authorized collection site. This can be done at a sponsored scheduled prescription “Take-Back” event or any time at a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorized collection site. The number of available drop off locations increased after DEA amended the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 and expanded the options available to collect controlled substances from ultimate users for the purpose of disposal. The public may find authorized collectors in their communities by calling the DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539.
Two of the largest pharmacy chains in our country, CVS and Walgreens, have recently launched programs to allow consumers to return their unwanted medications for safe disposal. In 2013, CVS launched its CVS/Pharmacy Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program, a Federal grant initiative. As part of this program, the company distributes drug collection bins to police departments and municipalities so they can set up environmentally responsible local drug disposal programs.(1) Walgreens plans to install safe medication disposal kiosks in more than 500 drugstores in 39 states and Washington, D.C., primarily at locations open 24 hours.(2)
Healthcare providers and other DEA Registrants can learn how to properly dispose of unused controlled substances by viewing DEA’s disposal regulations at the DEA Diversion website or at the Federal Governments Regulations website. The Final Rule of the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 authorizes certain DEA registrants (manufacturers, distributors, reverse distributors, narcotic treatment programs, retail pharmacies, and hospitals/clinics with an on-site pharmacy) to modify their registration with the DEA to become authorized collectors. All collectors may operate a collection receptacle at their registered location, and collectors without an on-site means of destruction may operate a mail-back program. Retail pharmacies and hospitals/clinics with an on-site pharmacy may also operate collection receptacles at long-term care facilities.(3)
DEA will conduct its 11th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Initiative (NTBI) on April 30th, 2016 from 10am to 2pm. Collection sites will not accept any dangerous, hazardous, or non-compliant items such as medical sharps and needles (e.g., insulin syringes), or compressed cylinders or aerosols (e.g., asthma inhalers). To find the collection site nearest you, visit the DEA website, click on the “Got Drugs” icon and enter your zip code. During DEA’s last NTBI held on September 26, 2015, DEA and 3,800 other participating law enforcement agencies collected over 350 tons of unwanted prescriptions that could have otherwise been diverted into the hands of addicts.