NATIONAL PRESCRIPTION DRUG TAKE-BACK DAY

This Saturday, September 25, residents in the Charleston area have a wonderful opportunity to positively impact public health and public safety by participating in the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.  From 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and partner organizations are launching this first-ever event to get old and unwanted medications taken out of circulation, reducing their potential to be misused and abused.

The primary goal of this event is to reduce prescription drug diversion, which is the use of prescription drugs for recreational purposes.  But a secondary benefit is environmental, potentially reducing the amount of prescription drugs that make their way into our water system.

Drug diversion is rapidly becoming a serious health problem, with economic costs to public and private insurers estimated at nearly $75 billion a year.  The effects on our youth are significant, as every day, approximately 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the very first time. Unfortunately, one of the common misconceptions among teens is that prescription drugs are perceived to be much safer than illegal drugs.  It is startling that in the past year, 1 in 7 teens abused prescription drugs to get high, and more than half of them started before the age of 15.

Nearly three-fourths of abused pharmaceutical drugs (like Ritalin, Xanax, Valium and narcotic pain killers) are obtained from family and friends. By removing old and unwanted prescription drugs from your home, this program has the potential to remove a significant number of potentially dangerous substances from circulation.

On the environmental front, recent studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others have detected pharmaceutical drugs in varying concentrations in our nation’s water supplies.  In Philadelphia, for example, traces of 56 pharmaceuticals have been detected in the drinking water.  While drugs in waterways also result from normal excretion routes and metabolic processes, there has been increasing interest among the public in developing methods to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals to reduce their introduction into our water supply.

On this Prescription Drug Take Back Day, while the DEA is most interested in controlled substances, they will take any type of unused medication. This program is free and anonymous – no personal information will be gathered.  If you are still concerned about privacy, you can empty your pills into the bin and take the bottles home with you (except for liquids).  Alternatively, you can remove the label entirely.

Please take advantage of this event, as most communities do not offer consumers the opportunity to properly dispose of medications.  Although the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has pledged to have more of these events in the future, this is the first one. There are currently four sites scheduled to accept these drugs in our area:  the Charleston, North Charleston and Mt Pleasant Police Departments, and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.  If more locations are added, they will be posted on www.dea.gov.

One of the easiest ways individuals can help reduce drug diversion is to properly dispose of unused or expired medications. This not only reduces the potential for diversion of these drugs, keeping them out of the hands of our children and others, and reducing accidental overdose, but it also has the potential to significantly reduce the impact of disposal on our environment. Appropriate and safe disposal of all medications should become the new norm in our communities. Take back programs are clearly a win-win for both public health and public safety.

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