The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) collected a record-shattering 912,305 pounds (456 tons) of prescription drugs during its fourteenth annual (voluntary) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
Americans from across the nation voluntarily turned over their unused, expired, or unwanted prescription drugs to the DEA in partnership with more than 4,200 state and local law enforcement agencies, who collected these drugs at more than 5,300 collection points. The new record brings the total amount of drugs collected since the Take Back Day began seven years ago to a huge 9,015,668 pounds (4,508 tons) of potentially dangerous prescription drugs.
“By taking dangerous drugs off of our streets, we keep addiction from spreading,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who oversees Trump’s DEA. “One of the most important ways we do that is through the DEA’s semi-annual Prescription Drug Take Back Days. The latest Take Back day was the most successful yet, safely disposing of a record amounts of drugs. I have no doubt that will save lives.”
The agency’s Office of Diversion Control spent twice as much on advertising for the October event as it previously did in April. A DEA spokesperson said that it hoped to continue increasing the funding for the event.
Many opioid addicts initially began their journey to drug abuse by consuming the prescribed opioids, often borrowed or stolen from various family members who had received the original prescriptions. Drug Take Back Day is intended to curb this trend by allowing for safe, legal disposal of unused prescription drugs.
“More people start down the path of addiction through the misuse of opioid prescription drugs than any other substance. The abuse of these prescription drugs has fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic, which has led to the highest rate of overdose deaths this country has ever seen,” said the acting DEA Administrator Robert W. Patterson.
Opioids are the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States as per the latest figures, and drug overdoses are considered to be the leading cause of injury death, outpacing car crashes, homicide, and suicide. Around one in every seventh American admits to having abused opioids at some point in their lives.
Among the many law enforcement partners who participated in the Drug Take Back Day was the Pittsburgh police department. That city, like many others in the rust belt, has been hard struck by the ongoing opioid epidemic — the medical examiner in Allegheny county, of which Pittsburgh is the seat, found a massive 44 percent spike in opioid deaths between 2015 and 2016.
The Pittsburgh PD collected 319 pounds of prescription drugs on Take Back Day, according to a public information officer.
“The Drug Take Back Day gives us the platform to give the public an opportunity to combat the abuse of prescription drugs and accidental poisonings. Our residence look forward to the opportunity to participate, judging from the feedback we receive on social media,” said the Pittsburgh representative.
The first Take Back Day, in September of 2010, was inspired by a problem that the DEA had recognized with the proper disposal of controlled prescription drugs. The Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration had both that year expressed their own respective concerns with Americans flushing their prescription drugs down the toilet, causing them to seep into the main water supply.
The DEA had the resources to properly incinerate drugs, and so organized collections.
“Everyone was pleasantly surprised with the enthusiasm with that. It turned out to be a big event with a lot of response,” the DEA spokesperson explained.
Now, fighting the prescription opioid abuse has become the top most priority for the federal government. Days before Take Back Day, President Donald Trump had declared the epidemic as a public health crisis; last Wednesday, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released a draft of its final recommendations, and calling for aggressive state and federal action to combat the crisis that had claimed almost 50,000 lives in 2016.
The next Drug Take Back Day will be in April 28, 2018.