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What's In Your Medicine Cabinet: Unused Prescription Drugs Drive Abuse

October 23, 2017

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is October 28

drug_takeback_1900x986_DUO.jpgThe family medicine cabinet has become the source of a growing epidemic in the United States as the number of people dying from prescription drug overdoses has grown 7-fold since 1980 with 46 people dying every day.[i] According to a recent study, one out of every three opioid prescriptions, subsidized by America’s employers, is being abused, and nearly half of prescription abusers obtain the drugs from family and friends, using what they have in their medicine cabinets. [ii], [iii]

While the amount of opioids being prescribed in the U.S. has declined since its peak in 2010, dispense rates remain high with three times more opioids prescribed in 2015 than 1999. In fact, a recent study by the National Safety Council found that 99% of doctors were prescribing highly addictive opioids for longer than the three days recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[iv]

This over prescribing can lead to excess prescription medications sitting in the medicine cabinet, lending itself to potential misuse, abuse or diversion (drugs being given or taken by someone for illicit or abusive use). The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) developed National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to help fight this issue. The purpose of the initiative is to eliminate the diversion, misuse or abuse of prescription drugs by providing a safe, convenient and responsible means for disposing of prescription medications that are unwanted, unused or expired, while also educating the public on the potential for the abuse of medications.

Saturday, October 28 will be the 14th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Past events have collected more than 8 million pounds or over 4,000 tons of prescription medications, from narcotics to antibiotics. You, your clients and plan members can help limit access to dangerous prescription medications, potentially saving someone from a fatal overdose, by properly disposing of unwanted medications during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. On October 28 there will be thousands of community sites throughout the country available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for proper and safe disposal of unused prescription medications (certain areas of Nevada will have their Prescription Drug Take Back program on October 21).

To find a site near you or learn more about the disposal of prescription drugs, visit the DEA Diversion website.

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs. July 2014.

[ii] Vora, Priyam. “The Prescription Opioid Crisis is Getting Worse,” American Journal of Managed Care, Aug. 22, 2017

[iii] Han, Beth, MD, PhD, MPH; et al. “Prescription Opioid Use, Misuse, and Use Disorders in U.S. Adults: 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health,” Annals of Internal Medicine,.

[iv] Teater, Don, MD, National Safety Council. Prescriber attitudes and behavior related to prescription opioid pain medication, 2016.