October 26th is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), this event offers people across the United States the opportunity to safely and anonymously dispose of unused or expired medications, including opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine.
The amount of these drugs that are present in our communities is staggering. On the last National Drug Take Back Day, for example, collection sites gathered almost 470 tons of prescription medications. Events like these are critical in the ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic. When people have the chance to safely and securely turn in their leftover medications, especially painkillers, it curbs the risk of drug diversion and prevents environmental contamination.
The majority of people see tremendous value in programs that enable safe drug disposal. According to Stericycle’s 2nd annual drug takeback survey, 75% of Americans believe that people sharing or selling their unused prescriptions—including painkillers—contributes to the growth of the opioid epidemic, and nearly as many feel that having a safe and secure way to dispose of leftover medications would help combat the problem.
Unfortunately, people often hold on to their prescription drugs for future use, whether for fear their illness will return (35%) or because they don’t know how to get rid of the drugs (18%). When they’re unsure of proper disposal methods, they can make unsafe choices. Close to 30% of survey respondents say they have placed leftover drugs in the trash and more than one in four have flushed them down the drain or toilet. These actions can lead to significant environmental contamination putting communities at risk.
Additionally, if an individual decides to hold on to his or her medication, the likelihood of it ending up in the wrong hands goes up. Nearly 20% of respondents have been offered or given unused drugs, including opioids, by a friend or family member, and 10% have offered or given their leftover medications to someone else for either medical or recreational use.
Stericycle is committed to helping Americans safely dispose of unused medications. Not only do we enthusiastically support National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, we also work closely with hospitals, pharmacies, police departments and DEA registered businesses to enable safe and anonymous disposal of unused drugs all year round. A few ways we help take part in safe disposal of unused medications include:
DEA registrants, such as pharmacies, can place our award-winning drug collection kiosks in public areas, where individuals can confidentially drop off their leftover medications. Our kiosks securely hold the drugs and restrict access. In 2016, Walgreens installed Stericycle’s drug collection kiosks in over 500 of their stores so consumers can anonymously and safely dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions.
2. Seal&SendSM Envelope Program
Stericycle’s Seal&SendSM envelope program also enables safe and secure medication disposal. These prepaid envelopes let patients turn in up to eight ounces of unused medication directly for incineration, which is helpful if an individual is unable to get to a drop-off point.
Hospitals, physicians’ offices pharmacies and community organizations can make these envelopes available to patients and encourage their use. Unlike drug collection kiosks, which can only be hosted by DEA registrants, any commercial business can purchase Seal&Send envelopes and provide them to patients, employees, students or citizens to facilitate safe drug disposal.
Stericycle’s is another service designed to help hospitals and non-acute care facilities prevent diversion of controlled substance waste by providing a secure container with a one-way disposal path, non-retrievable elements and environmentally friendly disposal.
Taking Part in Safe Drug Disposal
As a leader in safe, secure disposal solutions for unused pharmaceuticals, Stericycle is dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis. We are constantly looking for ways to better inform the public about the importance of properly handling leftover prescriptions and are committed to delivering practical and user-friendly solutions that streamline the disposal process.
For more information about Stericycle’s work in combatting the opioid epidemic, go to https://www.stericycle.com/services/waste-services/controlled-substance-disposal.