National Prescription Drug Take Back Day – Saturday, April 27, 2019 – is just days away. Participating is a great way to ensure public health and clean out your medicine cabinet. Or in my case – the car. I write this as a person who has been driving around with prescription drugs to properly dispose of for nearly a year. I started moving last spring and found them as I was going through a closet. Thanks to my work here at Sedgwick and our caring counts philosophy, I knew about the importance of proper prescription drug riddance, so I put the old medicines in my car, ready to dutifully and safely dispose of them. Except I never did. They’re obviously not “for the road.” It's just that I've been waiting until it's convenient. Unfortunately, I can't simply drop them off at my local drugstore...yet. But I look forward to the day that option is available closer to where I live.
I know – how hard could it be? How did this happen? Well...as they say, "out of sight, out of mind." Of course, I always mean to take my old prescriptions back. But the truth is, driving to the nearest drop-off site has been a chore, something extra to do, and something I've put off for so long it’s fallen off my radar. Instead, I waited for the exact right time, occasionally burying the old and possibly expired prescriptions under grocery bags, windshield wiper fluid and an umbrella or two.
However, it never struck me until this upcoming Drug Take Back Day approached how badly this could have gone wrong, and how my procrastination totally defeats the purpose of drug safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017. Opioids were involved in 47,600 of these in 2017, 67.8% of all drug overdose deaths. Thankfully my own stash doesn’t include opioids, but what if it had?
In my car sat these drugs, where any break-in could have left them in the wrong hands and caused harm. What if they had fallen out while I was retrieving one of those umbrellas? What if I accidentally carried them into the grocery store in my bag somehow? I feel bad thinking about how easy I could have made it for someone to access these prescriptions and injure themselves, or worse. “Unused or expired prescription medications are a public safety issue, leading to potential accidental poisoning, misuse and overdose. Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and protects the environment,” states the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Now in its ninth year, DEA has collected a total of nearly 11 million pounds (more than 5,400 tons) of expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications through its Take Back Day events. In 2018 alone, more than 1.8 million pounds of drugs were collected. Drop off sites nationwide, including those that are open year round, can be found here. After Take Back Day, you can also check with your local pharmacy, law enforcement agency or municipal office, many of which are expanding their year-round drug disposal initiatives. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy also offers safe drug disposal guidelines and a year-round drop-off locator on its website.
This weekend, approximately 6,000 collection sites manned by nearly 5,000 partner law enforcement agencies will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. The service is free and anonymous. I have had the Drug Take Back Day on my calendar for the past two weeks, so with the help of modern convenience, the notifications on my phone will remind me to do it this time. I hope you will join me in participating this Saturday and help keep us all safe.