Final National Rx Drug Take-Back Day This Saturday, Sept. 27th

New Rules Take Effect October 9th for Patients’ Medications in Need of Disposal.

On Saturday, September 27, 2014 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm local time, communities will team up with law enforcement to host the ninth and final National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. At the last Take-Back Day in April 2014, over 780,000 pounds (390 tons) of unwanted or expired medications were surrendered for safe and proper disposal. The disposal service is free and anonymous, with no questions asked.

DEA has published new prescription drug disposal regulations per the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010. The Final Rule allows for 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. DEA’s new disposal regulations take effect October 9, 2014, and can be viewed in the Federal Register. 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.

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. Throwing away medications in trash cans or flushing them down the toilet can be a safety and health hazard. 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. While the number of Americans who currently abuse prescription drugs dropped in 2013 to 6.5 million from 6.8 million in 2012, that is still more than double the number of those using illicit drugs of abuse like heroin, cocaine, and LSD combined, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. According to the 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey, over 28 percent of 12th graders had abused prescription medications in the past 12 months. These statistics stress the need for proper disposal of unused or expired prescription medications.

DEA began hosting National Prescription Drug Take-Back events four years ago. This month's event marks the ninth and final National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The public’s response has been enormous; in total, close to 4.1 million pounds (over 2,100 tons) of unused or expired drugs were collected from the nation during the previous eight events.

“Take-Back” events will no longer be scheduled by the DEA but can still be held by local law enforcement and partners - including DEA or non-DEA registrants. Consumers may also continue to utilize the guidelines for the disposal of controlled substances listed by the Food and Drug Administration.

For the September 27 event, local Drug Take-Back Day collections sites can be found by phoning 1-800-882-9539 or checking on the DEA's website. Only pills, patches, and other solids, can be brought to the collection sites -- liquids, needles or other sharps will not be accepted.

  • 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.
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Press Release. DEA’s Ninth and Final Prescription Drug Take Back Day Being Held Saturday September 27. Posted September 23, 2014. Accessed September 23, 2104 at http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/hq/2014/hq092314.shtml.

Last updated: 2014-09-23 by L. Anderson, PharmD.

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