Drug Enforcement Administration Finally Allows Pharmacies to Take Back Drugs
In September of this year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorized pharmacies to accept unused prescription drugs from customers. Prescription drug misuse has been a huge problem in the United States. In 2013, one in five adults reported having misused a prescription in their life. Young people are especially drawn to them. Behind marijuana, they are the most commonly used drug among teens. More than 3 in 10 high school seniors have misused a prescription drug in the past year. Their popularity among teens is partially due to the perception that prescription drugs are safer, being viewed as a doctor-approved drug, rather than a dangerous street drug, like heroin or cocaine. With prescription drugs, there is no drug deal required. Instead, one can just look into the family medicine cabinet.
Allowing pharmacies to take back drugs is one important step in curbing prescription drug abuse, particularly among teens. Most teens who abuse prescription drugs get them from their own home, or the home of a friend. This has made restricting teen access to prescription drugs especially difficult.
Until now, a person who wanted to responsibly dispose of unused prescribed medication had few options: pharmacies could not take them, law enforcement officers could not take them and flushing them down the toilet is potentially hazardous to the environment. The only viable opportunity came twice a year at DEA prescription take-back programs. This new measure gives parents and responsible adults the opportunity to reduce prescription drug misuse.
The onus is now on pharmacies to create programs that allow these drugs to be returned to the pharmacy and properly disposed. Large pharmacy chains such as CVS and Walgreens should take steps to set up a company-wide protocol for receiving drugs in an easy, non-conspicuous way. Cutting off adolescent access is critical to reducing prescription drug misuse in this country, and we are excited to see how this measure impacts the problem. We also hope the DEA and other federal agencies will start taking a more active role regulating and monitoring excessive opioid prescription practices among providers and their patients. CASAColumbia recently joined forces with other addiction programs to help sponsor a rally in Washington, DC focused on the opioid epidemic in this country which has been largely stimulated by prescription drug abuse. To learn more about our experience at the rally, read our blog post on it here.
Margaret Raskob, MPH
Margaret Raskob is a freelance blogger for CASAColumbia