National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

Free and safe medication disposal will once again be available nationwide - with no questions asked.

On Saturday, April 26, 2014 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm local time, communities will team up with law enforcement to host the eighth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. At the last Take-Back Day in October 2013, over 647,211 pounds (324 tons) of unwanted or expired medications were surrendered for safe and proper disposal at over 5,600 sites. It was the second-largest collection of medications in seven Take-Back Days.

Prescription medications play an important role in the health of millions of Americans. However, expired medications or unused drugs often stay in the back of cabinets for months or even years. These expired drugs can pose significant health hazards to toddlers, teens and even family pets. Some medications are so potent that even one dose could be fatal if accidentally ingested.

There are other safety issues as well: a U.S. government report shows that more than 70 percent of people who first misuse prescription drugs get them from their friends or relatives, or simply take them without asking. Doctors and the Internet also continue to be a source of abused drugs. According to the 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey, just over 28 percent of 12th graders had abused prescription medications in the past 12 months. Top drugs abused by teens included drugs for ADHD, painkillers like Vicodin, and even cold medicines. These facts stress the need for proper disposal of unused or expired prescription medications.

The “Drug Take-Back” initiative aims to reduce the prescription drug abuse epidemic occurring in the United States. Prescription drug diversion, misuse and abuse are leading to alarming rates of drug addiction. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 6.8 million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs such as pain relievers, stimulants, and tranquilizers and sedatives. Drug disposal at local community sites will help to decrease a growing public health and safety concern, safeguard homes, and provide an environmentally friendly answer to neglected medications. Throwing away medications in trash cans or flushing them down the toilet can be a safety and health hazard.

This month's event marks the eight National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. In total, close to 3.4 million pounds of unused or expired drugs were collected during the previous seven events. “Take-Back” events will be scheduled every six months until the DEA has finalized a process for consumers to safely dispose of their unwanted medications.

The DEA’s “Take-Back” initiative is one of four strategies under the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 to reduce prescription drug abuse and diversion in the United States. Additional strategies include education of health care providers, patients, parents and youth; establishing prescription drug monitoring programs in all 50 states; and increased enforcement to address illicit methods of prescription drug diversion.

Local Drug Take-Back Day collections sites can be found by phoning 1-800-882-9539 or checking on the DEA's website

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. Monitoring the Future 2013 Survey Results. Updated Jan. 2014. Accessed April 13 at http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/monitoring-future-2013-survey-results
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4795. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.

Last updated: 2013-04-14 by L. Anderson, PharmD.

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