One good reason to participate: Your stockpile could fuel someone’s substance use disorder.
According to the latest available data, the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 51.3 percent of those 12 and older who misused prescription pain relievers in the past year got them from a friend or relative, including 3.2 percent who took them without asking.
Even if your prescriptions aren’t deliberately misused, they can put people at risk. According to the National Capital Poison Center, pain medications are the most frequent cause of fatalities in children under age 6 that are reported to Poison Control.
Other reasons to take back drugs include the environment. Although pharmaceuticals in the water supply are not thought to pose a threat to human health, they can affect animal health and behavior. In the past, officials told people to flush their unused pharmaceuticals. Today, they recommend taking back drugs to keep them out of waterways.
The take-back program isn’t designed for illicit substances, and officials discourage participants from turning in insulin syringes or asthma inhalers because they can harm collectors. This spring, nearly 5,000 law enforcement agencies took part in the effort. They collected more than 468 tons of drugs. Thus far, the program is responsible for collecting 5,908 tons of drugs.
Can’t make it to a take-back event? The DEA recommends taking meds from bottles, mixing them into something unappealing, such as used cat litter, and throwing them away in a sealed bag or container. Because some prescription drugs are potentially deadly, the Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing certain drugs — such as fentanyl — instead of throwing them in the trash. For a list, visit bit.ly/drugflushlist.