Take Back Day provides safe way to discard unwanted drugs

Take Back Day provides safe way to discard unwanted drugs

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In what has become an important twice yearly event, the Drug Enforcement Administration has scheduled a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day for Oct. 27 to collect unwanted or expired prescription drugs and keep them from contaminating our water supply or from being used improperly.

During the most recent National Take Back event, collection sites received almost one million pounds “of potentially dangerous, expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs, making it the most successful event in DEA history,” according to a DEA press release.

Since the Take Back events started in 2010, the DEA notes that 9.9 million pounds of old prescription drugs have been properly discarded by members of the public.

The program was launched as a joint effort by the DEA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration. Getting rid of unwanted medications by either flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash can potentially contaminate public drinking water and the environment.

Water treatment plants purify drinking water by removing a number of contaminants; however, the filtration devices at these plants were not designed to remove pharmaceutical drugs from the water.

One organization helping to publicize the need to dispose of pharmaceuticals properly is the Focus for Health Foundation.

“One of the ways drugs get into our water supply is that people are flushing their unused prescriptions down the toilet,” an article for Focus for Health notes. “While water from sewage is filtered and chlorinated, the drugs remain in the water. The particulate is too fine to be caught in any city sewer filtration system. But, if you test the water, there they are. Anything from epilepsy drugs, to antibiotics, to diabetes drugs, to antidepressants are found in our water supply.”

In addition to keeping drugs from potentially contaminating water supplies, the battle to stop drug abuse continues.

“Today we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of an overdose every nine minutes,” said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “An unprecedented crisis like this one demands an unprecedented response – and that’s why President Trump has made this a priority for this administration. DEA’s National Take Back Days are important opportunities for people to turn in unwanted and potentially addictive drugs with no questions asked. These Take Back days continue to break records. … I have no doubt that it will help keep drugs out of the wrong hands and stop the spread of addiction.”

The drug disposal sites offer a chance for people across Texas and throughout the nation to help protect our water supplies and to help eliminate drugs that might potentially be misused.

“National Prescription Take Back Day is a day for every American, in every community across the country, to come together and do his or her part to fight the opioid crisis – simply by disposing of unwanted prescription medications from their medicine cabinets,” said DEA Acting Director Robert W. Patterson. “This event – our 15th – brings us together with local, state and federal partners to fight the abuse of prescription drugs that is fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic.”

Although some have recommended mixing medications to be discarded with coffee grounds or kitty litter and then placing them in garbage cans, the DEA recommends against doing that, saying “Unused prescription drugs thrown in the trash (even if mixed with coffee grounds or kitty litter) can be retrieved and abused or illegally sold. Take Back programs are the best way to dispose of old drugs.”

A list of communities hosting Take Back Day events can be found here.

If your community is not listed as participating in the Take Back Day, you can contact your local health district or law enforcement agency for information on local programs available for medication disposal.