Once or twice a year in my town there is a day when residents can turn in leftover prescription drugs that are then disposed of properly rather than flushing them down the toilet to enter streams and rivers or be found in medicine cabinets by children or grandchildren.
The problem has now been addressed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Beginning next month, the agency will
”...permit consumers to return [certain] unused prescription medications...to pharmacies,” reports The New York Times and others...
“The new regulation, which will go into effect in a month, covers drugs designated as controlled substances. Those include opioid painkillers like OxyContin, stimulants like Adderall and depressants like Ativan.
“Until now, these drugs could not legally be returned to pharmacies. The Controlled Substances Act allowed patients only to dispose of the drugs themselves or to surrender them to law enforcement.”
What I didn't understand until reading about this new regulation is that the “take back” days are a national event organized by the DEA. The next one is on Saturday 27 September.
”In the past four years, these events have removed from circulation 4.1 million pounds of prescription medications,” reports The Times.
But that's only a drop in the bucket compared to how many drugs are in circulation:
“'The [take back days] only removed an infinitesimal fraction of the reservoir of unused drugs that are out there,' said Dr. Nathaniel Katz, an assistant professor of anesthesia at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston who studies opioid abuse. 'It’s like trying to eliminate malaria in Africa by killing a dozen mosquitoes.'
“Dr. Katz is optimistic that the D.E.A.’s decision could have a powerful impact. Putting drop-off receptacles for controlled substances in pharmacies will mean consumers have year-round access to disposal services.”
The new regulation is voluntary and does not require pharmacies to have drop off receptacles so it is unknown at this point how many will participate.
It seems such an obviously important service – especially for elders who use more prescription drugs than younger people - that it is amazing it's never been thought of before. You can read the entire story here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Worldwide Music Man