April 27th marked the sixth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, and the results were impressive. According to the DEA, law enforcement agencies collected 50 percent more unwanted prescription drugs than the previous year, thereby speaking to the country’s commitment to keep unwanted, unused and expired drugs from ending up in the wrong hands.
More than 5,800 local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies, who partnered with the DEA for the event, collected more than 371 tons of prescription medications this year alone, bringing the combined total of the DEA program, since its inception, to more than 1,409 tons.
The DEA began the program as a way to provide citizens with a “safe, convenient, and responsible” way to dispose of unwanted prescription medications. It also provides the DEA with a unique opportunity to spread the word about the potential abuse of medications in the country.
The DEA has their work cut out for them. According to a 2011 national survey, twice as many Americans abused prescription drugs than all illicit drugs combined. That means that prescription drug use is a larger problem in the United States than cocaine, hallucinogen, heroin and inhalant use. The same study, which was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, also revealed that more than 70 percent of all individuals abusing prescription drugs got them from friends or relatives (whether knowingly or unknowingly).
The DEA’s annual event is part of the White House’s 2011 Office of National Drug Control Policy. The agency’s publication, Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis, details a number of strategies for keeping unwanted or unused prescription drugs out of people’s medicine cabinets and out of the wrong hands. It also includes developing strategies for a number of education programs for health care providers, patients, youth, and parents.