April 21, 2022

Drug Take Back Day: Protecting Communities and the Planet

The opioid epidemic continues to threaten the health, safety, and well-being of individuals and communities across the country. In November 2021, the Centers for Disease Control announced that, for the first time in history, U.S. drug overdose deaths surpassed 100,000 in a single 12-month period, a 28 percent increase from the previous year. Many experts attribute this spike in overdoses to the COVID-19 pandemic, as social distancing protocols intensified feelings of isolation and stress for those at risk of an overdose. Although the majority of Americans understand the grave consequences of prescription medication abuse, many are unaware of the role they can play in combatting the opioid crisis. 

Drug take back programs offer patients a secure, accessible, and easy way to help prevent opioid misuse by turning in expired or unused prescription drugs to local police departments or pharmacies for disposal. Drug take back efforts are year-round, but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) designates two days per year, in the spring and fall, as National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to further encourage people to return their unneeded prescription medications. 

This year, April 30 marks the first National Drug Take Back Day of 2022 and the 22nd year of observance in the U.S. Stericycle is proud to provide a guide for individuals and organizations to take part in drug take back programs and help increase awareness of the benefits for communities and the environment.

The Importance of Safe Drug Disposal

Before participating in National Drug Take Back Day, it’s important to understand how proper drug disposal plays a crucial role in combatting the opioid epidemic and protecting the environment. 

When left in easily accessible places like medicine cabinets, prescription drugs can often land in the wrong hands. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that nearly half of the 9.3 million people who misused prescription pain relievers in the past year obtained them from family and friends without their knowledge or consent. Furthermore, Stericycle’s Healthcare Workplace Safety Trend Report found that more than half of the healthcare workers surveyed (56% of providers and 60% of administrators) believe that improperly disposed of pharmaceutical waste is one of the biggest contributors to the opioid epidemic.

Healthcare workers and regulators understand that the importance of properly managing prescription drug waste cannot be emphasized enough, as proper management can help reduce the startling impact of the opioid crisis.

Participating in Drug Take Back Day

Participating in drug take back initiatives not only helps reduce the likelihood of inappropriate access in the home, but can also help protect the environment. Many individuals dispose of medications by flushing them down the toilet or pouring them down drains. This disposal method contaminates oceans, lakes, and sources of drinking water, harming both communities and wildlife. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration recognize drug take back programs as one of the most effective and sustainable ways to dispose of unused drugs.

Law enforcement agencies are eligible to host official National Prescription Drug Take Back Day collection sites. Beyond collection on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, your local retail pharmacy or hospital may have a year-round drop off location—individuals can visit the DEA Diversion Control Division website to find the nearest drug collection location.

How Stericycle Supports Drug Take Back Programs

Supporting the fight against the opioid epidemic is one way Stericycle helps create a healthier and safer world for everyone, everywhere, every day. We work closely with hospitals, pharmacies, police departments and other organizations to help enable secure and anonymous disposal of unused drugs all year. Here are some ways we help take part in the disposal of unused consumer medications:

  • MedDrop Collection Kiosks 
    Pharmacies and other DEA-approved organizations can encourage confidential drug collection with our MedDrop™ medication collection kiosks. Since its launch in 2016, the MedDrop solution has safely disposed of over 5 million pounds of consumer medications that could otherwise have been diverted, abused, or contaminated community water supplies.
  • Seal&Send Consumer Medication Mail Back Program
    For those who cannot access a drug take back location, Stericycle offers our Seal&Send™ Consumer Medication Mail Back program. These prepaid envelopes allow patients to send up to eight ounces of unused medication to Stericycle for incineration prior to disposal. Unlike drug collection kiosks, which can only be hosted by certain DEA registrants, any organization can purchase Seal&Send envelopes and provide them to patients, employees, students, and others.

Stericycle also helps hospitals and other healthcare facilities safely dispose of controlled substance wastage after patient administration with our CsRx® Controlled Substance Waste Service, which includes lockable wall-mounted containers prefilled with deactivating, deterring, and solidifying agents.  

We are committed to continuously developing practical and easy disposal methods that can help prevent prescription medication abuse and protect the environment. Visit our Safe Community Solutions page for more information about Stericycle’s work in helping to combat the opioid epidemic. 

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