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Trust for America's Health Statement on The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 26

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement from Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., executive director of Trust for America's Health (TFAH), on the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 26, which promotes the return of unused medications for safe disposal and helps reduce the potential for family and friends to have access to and misuse medications prescribed to others.


"One of the best ways to limit the scope of the prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States is by getting unneeded drugs off the streets and out of medicine cabinets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nationally, sales of prescription painkillers per capita have quadrupled since 1999 – and so have overdose deaths from prescription painkillers.  Enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult continually for a month.

Many Americans are not aware of the serious health hazards that prescription drugs can pose when not used properly – but they are deadly serious.  Deaths from prescription drugs now outnumber heroin, cocaine and even motor-vehicle fatalities.

Take-back days are one of the most effective strategies for preventing prescription drug abuse and misuse.  More than half of people who misuse prescription drugs report that they took pills that were actually prescribed to a friend or family member. 

Take-back programs allow people to get extra and unused medications out of their medicine cabinets – which helps prevent the possibility that they will be misused. When take-back days occur, they are successful. For example, in 2010, the Muskegon Area Medication Disposal Project (MAMDP) held their first take-back day and collected 500 pounds of medication. From February 2010 through January 2013, MAMDP held 11 events and collected 7,300 pounds of materials. And, since 2010, the Drug Enforcement Agency has partnered with communities to hold six national take-back days, culminating in the collection of 2.8 million pounds of unused medication. With millions of pounds of medications out of homes, fewer people have access to prescription painkillers.

In addition to the one-day events, a number of states and communities have been creating ongoing take-back programs, such as by setting up drug drop boxes in police stations or mail-in programs.  This is the last year there will be federal support for take-back days, so it is important for states and local communities to find ways to continue these programs moving forward.

Take-back programs were one of several policy strategies recommended in a new report, Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic that TFAH released earlier this month.  Some other important strategies to help reduce this epidemic include to:

  • Educate the public to understand the risks of prescription drug use to avoid misuse in the first place;
  • Ensure responsible prescribing practices, including increasing education of healthcare providers and prescribers to better understand how medications can be misused and to identify patients in need of treatment;
  • Increase understanding about safe storage of medication and proper disposal of unused medications, such as through take-back programs;
  • Make sure patients do receive the pain and other medications they need, and that patients have access to safe and effective drugs;
  • Improve, modernize and fully-fund Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, so they are real-time, interstate and incorporated into Electronic Health Records, to quickly identify patients in need of treatment and connect them with appropriate care and identify doctor shoppers and problem prescribers;
  • Make rescue medications more widely available by increasing access for at-risk individuals to naloxone and provide immunity for individuals and others seeking help; and
  • Expand access to and availability of effective treatment options as a key component of any strategy to combat prescription drug abuse."

More information about national take-back day is available at

State-by-state prescription drug abuse prevention policies and drug overdose death rates are available on TFAH's website:


Note: Rates include total drug overdose mortality rates, the majority of which are from prescription drugs. 1 = Highest rate of drug overdose fatalities, 51 = lowest rate of drug overdose fatalities. Rankings are based on data from CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, 2010. The numbers are based on the number of people per 100,000.

1. West Virginia**** (28.9); 2. New Mexico (23.8); 3. Kentucky**** (23.6); 4. Nevada (20.7); 5. Oklahoma*** (19.4); 6. Arizona (17.5); 7. Missouri*** (17); 8. (tie) Tennessee** and Utah (16.9); 10. Delaware** (16.6); 11. Florida** (16.4); 12. Ohio*** (16.1); 13. Rhode Island** (15.5); 14. Pennsylvania (15.3); 15. Wyoming*** (15); 16. South Carolina*** (14.6); 17. Indiana**** (14.4); 18. Michigan*** (13.9); 19. Louisiana*** (13.2); 20. Washington (13.1); 21. (tie) District of Columbia and Montana** and Oregon** (12.9); 24. Colorado (12.7); 25. Arkansas** (12.5); 26. (tie) Alabama*** and Idaho** and New Hampshire** (11.8); 29. Alaska (11.6); 30. (tie) Mississippi***and North Carolina** (11.4); 32. (tie) Maryland and Massachusetts (11); 34. (tie) Hawaii and Wisconsin** (10.9); 36. Georgia*** (10.7); 37. California (10.6); 38. Maine (10.4); 39. Connecticut (10.1); 40. Illinois (10); 41. New Jersey (9.8); 42. Vermont** (9.7); 43. (tie) Kansas** and Texas (9.6); 45. Iowa**** (8.6); 46. New York (7.8); 47. Minnesota** (7.3); 48. Virginia (6.8); 49. Nebraska** (6.7); 50. South Dakota (6.3); 51. North Dakota (3.4).

** Drug Overdose Mortality Rates doubled from 1999 to 2010
*** Drug Overdose Mortality Rates tripled from 1999 to 2010
**** Drug Overdose Mortality Rates quadrupled from 1999 to 2010

Trust for America's Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority. For more information, visit

SOURCE Trust for America's Health
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