Nurses Tell Your Patients – National Drug Take-Back Day is Saturday, April 28

April 25th, 2012


By , BSN, RN 

The DEA wants your drugs and they will be in your area this weekend collecting them.

We all have them—old prescription meds we didn’t finish taking. Patients come to the hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office with bags full of medications; unsure of what they are for or if they are still supposed to be taking them. I even saw an episode of “Law & Order” where an attendant in a nursing home was helping himself to leftover medications when clients died. Our world is quite literally flooded with prescription drugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has scheduled its fourth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this coming weekend. It is set for Saturday, April 28, 2012, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., nationwide. This is a great opportunity for those who missed the previous events, or who have subsequently accumulated unwanted, unused prescription drugs, to safely dispose of those medications.

Prescription Drugs Top the Abuse List

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The increase in unintentional drug overdose death rates in recent years has been driven by increased use of a class of prescription drugs called opioid analgesics. Since 2003, more overdose deaths have involved opioid analgesics than heroin and cocaine combined. In addition, for every unintentional overdose death related to an opioid analgesic, nine persons are admitted for substance abuse treatment, 35 visit emergency departments, 161 report drug abuse or dependence, and 461 report nonmedical uses of opioid analgesics.

Opiod analgesics are medications that suppress the perception of pain. The calm the emotional response to pain by reducing the number of pain signals sent by the nervous system and the brain's reaction to those pain signals. Opioids are used to reduce moderate to severe chronic pain. They come in pills, liquids, or suckers to take by mouth, and in shot, skin patch, and suppository form. Some of the common opioid analgesic drugs are Vicodin, Dilaudid, Oxycontin, and Percocet. And, it seems they are in alomost everyone’s medicine cabinet.

Get a root canal, the doctor will likely prescribe a pain killer. Have surgery, or a car accident, or throw out your back and you will likely be given a prescription for a pain killer. This is not a bad thing and many of us take a few for few days then forget about them in the back of the medicine cabinet.

“The amount of prescription drugs turned in by the American public during the past three Take-Back Day events speaks volumes about the need to develop a convenient way to rid homes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “DEA remains hard at work to establish just such a drug disposal process, and will continue to offer take-back opportunities until the proper regulations are in place.”

Previous Drug Take-Back Results

Americans who participated in the DEA’s third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 29, 2011, turned in more than 377,086 pounds (188.5 tons) of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at the 5,327 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states and U.S. territories. When the results of the three prior Take-Back Days are combined, the DEA, and its state, local, and tribal law-enforcement and community partners have removed 995,185 pounds (498.5 tons) of medication from circulation in the past 13 months.

According to the CDC, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for one month. Often, some of these medicines languish in the home and are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse.

Studies show that the majority of teens who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from family and friends for free, including from the home medicine cabinet. Many Americans simply do not know how to properly dispose of their unused or expired medicine.

To find the closest Take-Back drop off in your area simply click here. If there is no collection spot in your area here are some tips for getting rid of your own unused medications and that you can pass on to your patients.

Throw Them In The Trash?

There are some fairly simple steps you can use to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

  • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag
  • Throw the container in your household trash

What About Flushing?

There are a small number of medications that may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal in a single dose if they are used by someone other than the person the medicine for whom the medicine was prescribed. For this reason, a few medicines have specific disposal instructions that indicate they should be flushed down the sink or toilet when they are no longer needed and when they cannot be disposed of through a drug take-back program. When you dispose of these medicines down the sink or toilet, they cannot be accidently used by children, pets, or anyone else. Click here for the list.

Now, I know we have all seen reports that trace amounts of medicines have been found in water systems around the country. The majority of those medicines found are the results of the body’s natural routes of drug elimination (in urine or feces). Scientists, to date, have found no evidence of harmful effects to human health from medicines in the environment.

When a medicine take-back program isn’t available, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that any potential risk to people and the environment from flushing this small, select list of medicines is outweighed by the real possibility of life-threatening risks from accidental ingestion of these medicines.

Abuse of prescription drugs is a national health crisis. Check your own medicine cabinets, advise your patients, friends and families and lets get these unused drugs out of homes and out of circulation this weekend.

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