60,000 children under the age of five are treated for accidental overdose each year.https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/protect/protect_initiative.html
Opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 (67.8% of all drug overdose deaths).https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html
These are scary statistics. Even scarier when you think of all the individual lives affected by them. That’s why, on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, locations across America will become centers where you can return unused prescription medications. On October 26th, people will be able to drop off any unused medications with specialists that will safely dispose of them. You may be asking yourself why this is necessary. Can’t you just hold on to prescription medications until the next time you use them? Or just throw them out? Well, it’s actually not that simple.
America’s Prescription Problem
Let’s start with a little background. In 2017, an estimated 18 million people aged 12 and over misused prescription medications. That represents six percent of the population. A truly staggering number. Many of the prescription medications which are being abused are opioids. The spike over the last decade in prescription opioid abuse has resulted in a national crisis.
These statistics may seem abstract and difficult to put in context, but they have very serious real-world consequences. Prescription opioids alone account for a huge portion of national overdose deaths. In 2017, 17,029 people in the US overdosed on prescription opioids and died. To put that in perspective, 192 people died from drug overdoses every day. Of that total, forty-seven of them were from prescription opioids.
Unfortunately, that’s not even the whole picture. 130 of the daily overdoses involved opioids, either prescription pills or illicit opioids like heroin or fentanyl. In the past, most heroin users’ first opioid was heroin. In the 2000’s, approximately seventy-five percent of heroin or fentanyl users reported using prescription painkillers first. Not only are prescription opioids responsible for a huge number of overdose deaths. Fentanyl and heroin death rates are climbing because of prescription opioid use.
Why Take Back Day is Important
The opioid crisis is a well-covered issue that I’m sure many of you are well aware of. So, some of you are probably still wondering why taking unused prescriptions to a drop off center is important. Isn’t the opioid crisis caused by the overprescribing of pain medications? If you’re not abusing your prescription medications, why should you have to bring them in?
Well, there are several reasons that the Take Back Day initiative was started. The chief among them are:
1. 50% of people that misused prescription painkillers got them from a family member or friend
It is a common misconception that every person that abuses prescription painkillers gets them directly from their doctor. However, many addicts become addicted by receiving or stealing prescription medications from their friends and family. By keeping your unused prescription medications around the house, or giving them to them as a favor’ you may be aiding their addiction.
2. 60,000 children under the age of five are treated for accidental overdose each year
In emergency rooms across the country, nearly 165 children under the age of five are brought in every day having ingested a prescription medication that they shouldn’t have. Of those cases, many result in serious injury that causes permanent damage and possibly even death.
3. Our disposed drugs are affecting the water supply and environment
At least 80% of our water supply contains measurable amounts of pharmaceuticals. Those measurable amounts are very low, and most scientists do not think that it poses a major health risk. However, the long term impacts of low levels of exposure to so many pharmaceuticals are not known, particularly for animals.
4. Expired drugs are ineffective and potentially dangerous
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a great opportunity to go through your medicine cabinet and check expiry dates. Expired drugs are always a risk. Some are susceptible to bacterial growth, which can cause illness. However, most will simply lose effectiveness over time, meaning that you may not properly treat a dangerous condition, making it worse.
How Does it Work?
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a bi-annual event that offers everyone and anyone the opportunity to bring in their prescription medications for disposal, no questions asked. On the next Take Back Day, thousands of locations across the country will be open as Take Back centers. You can find your nearest center using the Take Back Day locator, or you can just type ‘medication disposal near me’ into Google.
Once you have found a location near you, you can bring in any unused prescription medication between the hours of 10am and 2pm on 26th October, 2019. Staff at the location will take your unused medications and ensure that they are properly disposed of. If you are unable to get to a Take Back Day location, the FDA has guidelines on how to properly dispose of medications.
So, there you have it. While that cabinet full of old pill bottles might seem like harmless clutter, it may actually pose a risk to your family, friends, and the environment. Unused medications can range from being ineffective to being a gateway to opioid abuse. This October 26th, take the time to go through your medicine cabinet and do some Fall cleaning. You could be saving someone’s life.