What To Do With Old Pills?

DEA Says Turn Them In

What To Do With Old Pills? Healthy Living Magazine

What To Do With Old Pills? Healthy Living Magazine

You probably know where to recycle paper and plastic, paint and hazardous materials, electronics and even sneakers. What about prescription drugs?

Most Americans seem to have some out-of-date medications in their cabinets. So, how many pounds of expired prescription drugs do you have?

That's right, pounds. Based on the amounts people have been turning in, you're not alone. For the last several years, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has held a not very widely publicized National Prescription Drugs Take-Back Day. For those who knew, it was the perfect time to turn in what can actually be dangerous to leave at home.

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Why? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that the number of accidental overdoses of narcotics painkillers in the year 2011 was 12,000, a 400% increase from 12 years earlier. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are behind only marijuana and alcohol as the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 years and older—and many drugtakers apparently start with expired prescription drugs found at home.

In April this year, the DEA had 6,000 locations nationwide—including police stations and pharmacies—ready to accept out of date prescription and over-the-counter drugs for a Take-Back Day. On that day, the DEA collected 780,000 pounds of expired prescriptions, an average of 130 pounds per location.

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In fact, during the nine Take-Back Days held since the program began, the DEA reports a total of 4.1 million pounds of expired drugs were turned in. This program avoids the pollution hazards of drugs being flushed, or being discarded in the trash and being later recovered or abused, either by criminals or animals picking through debris.

Thus Take-Back Day seems like a beneficial government program—that has just been eliminated. Just a few weeks ago, the DEA held what it said was its last Take-Back Day, because they had also just finalized a rule that allows authorized registrants, like police stations, pharmacists and long-term care facilities to collect controlled substance for disposal year-round. The DEA also instituted a mail-back program - but only for registered participants.

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If you need to find a collection place near you or wonder what happens to the drugs when they're turned in; wonder if you can turn in syringes or unused marijuana; or have any other questions, check out this DEA Prescription Drug Disposal fact sheet.

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