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Curb the Epidemic: Safe Drug Disposal on Take-Back Day March 8, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Accidental drug deaths at an all-time high.

Unintentional drug overdose, now a national epidemic on the rise, ranks second in cause of death behind only motor vehicle accidents. Prior to this, motor vehicle accident deaths remained the leading cause of death for 80 years, and now in at least 16 states, drug induced deaths ranks first. The rate has increased fivefold since 1990, while suicide, homicide and undetermined poisoning rates have remained relatively stable.

The majority of these overdoses occur with cocaine, heroine, and opioid painkillers. The highest percentage of hospitalizations for a specific drug was a quintupling of methadone, perhaps due to a tenfold increase in retail sales, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Availability of controlled substances (not used for cancer patients) is spiking and US drug companies are not (yet) taking back unused medications. The common perception of prescribed medications is that they are less addictive and easier to obtain than street drugs. Furthermore, there is general gap in knowledge about how these medications will react with other prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Often, medications are taken by someone to whom they are not prescribed. Every day, 2,500 teens experiment by reaching into medicine cabinets.

While physicians figure out how to safely prescribe fewer pills and educate patients about the risks, and the government, in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies, determines how to budget a drug take-back policy, we can begin to curb the epidemic by returning unused medications at specified drop sites.

All expired or unwanted drugs may be returned.

  • Illegal or controlled substances must be turned in to law enforcement. No questions asked.
  • Many pharmacies will take back non-controlled substances. Look for the large blue metal disposal unit in the pharmacy waiting area.
  • Veterinary, tablet, pill, liquid medications and ointments may be returned.
  • Drugs are safely disposed of by incineration.

Other helpful tips:

  • Leave prescriptions in original containers. Identifying information may be blacked out for privacy.
  • Locate your state or local poison control center. Every call to a poison control center saves $175  in other medical spending by reducing calls to 9-1-1, ambulance dispatches, and ED services. (Up to 50% of all trauma patients seen in the ED are due to alcohol or other drug use prior to admission.)
  • Flushing or throwing away drugs and medication contaminates ground water, waterways and landfills.
  • Access the Drug Take-Back Network to find safe disposal sites are in your area.
  • The next DEA National Take-Back Day is April 30, 2011, but you can dispose at participating pharmacies or sheriff’s departments at any time.

Last September, the first DEA-sponsored Take-Back Day collected 121 tons of unused and unwanted drugs. This immediately reduced potential teen deaths due unintentional drug overdoses by 50%.

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