Drug Take-Back Day Recovers 309 Tons of Unused Pharmaceuticals

The ninth Drug Take-Back Day, administered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and 4,706 law enforcement partners, successfully collected 617,150 pounds, or 309 tons, of unwanted prescription drugs, according to a DEA press release. With the success of the September 27, 2014, take-back effort, the total number of drugs collected through four years of DEA take-back efforts has reached 4,823,251 pounds, or 2,411 tons.

Unused Drugs

The efforts to round up unused drugs are premised on the DEA’s understanding that unused prescription drugs create public health and safety concerns because they can be misused, stolen, lost, or accidentally ingested. The number of Americans abusing prescription drugs has fallen in recent years, from 6.8 million to 6.5 million between 2012 and 2013; however, the DEA says that the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs is still double that of “those using heroin, cocaine, and hallucinogens like LSD and Ecstasy combined.” The take-back efforts are significant because survey results indicated that the most common sources of abused prescription drugs are friends, families, and medicine cabinets.


The take-back efforts were started four years ago in response to a need to allow consumers opportunities to willingly give up unused prescription drugs. Prior to the DEA’s efforts, most unused medications were left in medicine cabinets, flushed down toilets, or thrown in the trash. According to the DEA, those improper storage and disposal methods resulted in unnecessary water contamination, theft, and abuse.


Following the first DEA Drug Take-Back Day, Congress passed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which authorized the DEA to create a program where certain entities would be authorized to collect drugs for disposal. The DEA continues to publish regulations to enhance safe drug disposal efforts. The most recent DEA regulation, published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2014, focuses on take back efforts, mail-back programs, and collection facilities.

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