Help Save Lives By Getting Rid of Unneeded Drugs, Including Opioids

3 minutes read time
Bottles and boxes of surplus and expired medications sit in a box to be disposed of a a local police station.
Bottles and boxes of surplus and expired medications sit in a box to be disposed of a a local police station.

Help Save Lives By Getting Rid of Unneeded Drugs, Including Opioids

October 27th is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day (Take Back Day) in the United States. This day is one of two such days annually, on which the Drug Enforcement Administration, in partnership with Federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement, businesses, medical offices, federal agencies, and first responders host events to collect and safely dispose of unneeded medication.

On each Take Back Day, thousands of pounds of prescription drugs are returned, helping to prevent incidents of drug abuse and misuse across the nation. At the last National Take Back Day, Americans collected a record-breaking 900,000 pounds of prescription drugs, more than the weight of three Boeing 757s.

Confronting the Driving Forces Behind the Opioid Crisis

From ingesting out-of-date prescription drugs to abuse and misuse of prescriptions, keeping unneeded prescriptions poses a number of risks. Overprescribing and stockpiling of opioids contributes to our nation’s opioid epidemic. Take Back Day supports President Donald J. Trump's initiative to stop opioid abuse and to reduce supply and demand.  

President Trump’s initiative to stop opioid abuse is confronting the driving forces behind the opioid crisis, educating Americans about the dangers of opioid misuse and curbing over-prescription, and cracking down on international and domestic illicit drug supply chains devastating American communities. 

The State Department is Working to Stop Overseas Drug Production and Trafficking

The devastating consequences of substance use know no geographic, economic, social, or ethnic boundaries. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people around the globe–rich, poor, educated, illiterate, male, female, and even young children–die from substance abuse, and millions more are victims of addiction and drug-fueled violence. 

In the United States, between 2012 and 2016, the number of U.S. overdose cases involving synthetic opioids increased by nearly 640 percent. Over 42,000 Americans died from overdosing on opioids in 2016 alone, and more recent preliminary data is even more alarming. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is leading the U.S. Department of State’s efforts to stop illicit opioids from being produced overseas and trafficked into the United States.

INL is thinking critically about how to better keep up with the dynamic threats we are combating through a number of new initiatives, including:

  • Updating our international drug control system to keep pace with the proliferation of new psychoactive substances; 
  • Expanding global capacity to capture and share advance electronic data for international mail parcels destined for the United States;
  • Increasing support for global drug early warning and information sharing systems;
  • Expanding the provision of technical assistance in illicit substance detection, forensics, and cyber investigation; and 
  • Sharing U.S. expertise on prevention, treatment, and recovery programs to reduce drug demand in foreign jurisdictions.

INL is working diligently to meet the challenges posed by illicit opioids by partnering with a range of actors including foreign governments, law enforcement agencies, the private sector, and multilateral institutions. But there is a role for everyone. By participating in Take Back Day, you can do your part to help prevent incidents of drug abuse and misuse across the United States. 

Locate your nearest collection site at: https://takebackday.dea.gov

About the Author: Jessica Keene serves in the Bureau of International Nartcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.