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Commentary: The Way Americans Dispose of Prescription Drugs is Changing for the Better


Visit and Join DEA for the Next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Saturday, April 28

Prescription drug abuse is perhaps our nation’s most significant drug problem, and trends over the past decade indicate this problem will only worsen, particularly among young adults and teens. While the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and law enforcement represent an important dimension in this fight, we are not the only ones. It will take our combined efforts to combat this problem, and the more we can do together to both educate our children early and make drugs more difficult to get, the more successful we will be.

Far too often legitimately prescribed drugs sit in our medicine cabinets and junk drawers, unused and forgotten. But to our children and young adults who don’t understand the dangers of these legal, yet powerful prescription drugs, experimentation and abuse have grave consequences.

So how do you rid your home of these medicines? In the past, we’ve simply flushed them down the toilet or thrown them in the trash. However, we’ve learned more about the negative effects these drugs can have on our environment, as well as their potential for theft and abuse.

Recognizing these problems, DEA has taken action. On September 25, 2010, we held our first National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The turnout for this event demonstrated that we had identified a pressing need, with an astounding 121 tons of unwanted, unused or expired medication brought in for proper disposal. Since then, we have held a Take-Back event every six months, and so far, we’ve taken nearly 500 tons of pills out of America’s medicine cabinets.

We are also working toward a permanent solution to this problem. DEA continues to prepare the final rules and procedures for the rollout of the Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act. This will allow people to dispose of their drugs in a safe manner every day, not only during our Take-Back events, and we hope to have these regulations in place by the end of the year. But until then, we remain committed to giving parents, grandparents, caregivers—everyone—a safe way to discard potentially harmful drugs, and will sponsor these events until the final disposal procedures are in place.

Our next Take-Back Day event is April 28th and with your continued assistance, I’m sure it will be another success. Information about the event and drop-off locations are available on -simply click on the Got Drugs banner and enter your zip code, and the locations nearest to you will come up.

Thank you for all you do, and for being a partner of DEA!

Michele M. Leonhart, Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration

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