The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated one of the most pressing health issues facing the United States – opioid addiction. With more than 93,000 Americans dying from opioid overdoses in 2020, an increase of nearly 30% from 2019, the U.S. is seeing opioid deaths hit the highest number ever recorded in a 12 month period.
To help combat this issue, healthcare agencies and advocates are working to increase awareness around the misuse of prescription drugs, putting pressure on Congress to create legislation requiring services for proper drug disposal.
On July 21, 2021, Congressman David McKinley (WV-01) introduced a resolution to promote drug takeback programs with Congressman David Trone (MD-06). The bipartisan resolution encourages state and local governments to use a portion of proceeds from any litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors to increase participation in drug take back programs. These programs facilitate the safe disposal of unused medications to ensure these products are not misused.
“We commend the leadership of Representatives McKinley and Trone on this issue. Proper drug disposal services can be an effective tool to help combat this national crisis,” said Kristin Aldred Cheek, Senior National Account Executive at Stericycle. “At Stericycle, we’re committed to enabling proper drug disposal and take back programs that protect the health and well-being of Americans and their families.”
The Effectiveness of Drug Take Back Programs
According to a 2019 Stericycle study, almost one in five Americans (18%) don’t know how to safely dispose of unused or expired medications. Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed choose to hold on to the drugs because they aren’t sure how to properly dispose of them. The longer an unused prescription is stored within reach of others, the higher the chances the drug may be diverted for improper or accidental use. For example, in 2019, more than 65,000 children under the age of 5 were taken to the emergency room due to unintended poisoning, with about 85% of these incidents occurring in the home.
"Ensuring the correct disposal of prescription drugs will help get these substances out of the home and save lives," said Rep. Trone in a press release. "It's important that we use funds from these opioid litigation settlements to encourage participation in initiatives like drug disposal bins and drug take-back programs that help prevent the use of opioids other than as prescribed and save lives.”
Drug take back programs are comprehensive initiatives designed to encourage patients to dispose of unused or expired medications properly and in a timely manner. There are several kinds of drug take back initiatives, ranging from designated take back days to multifaceted programs, which include patient education and community outreach activities that extend throughout the year.
Although each type of program is slightly different, they all share the common goal of getting unused medications out of circulation and eliminating the chance they will be misused. For example, the most recent National Drug Take Back Day in April 2021, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), diverted nearly 420 tons of unused, expired, and unwanted medications out of community areas.
Learn more about Drug Take Back Programs.
Partnering to Protect What Matters
Stericycle has continued to protect what matters across the U.S. and internationally by sharing 30 years of medical waste management expertise with regulatory agencies, drug manufacturers and distributors, pharmacies, and customers. Building on this congressional resolution, Stericycle will continue to play an essential role in protecting the health and well-being of people, communities and the environment today and in the future.
Learn more about how Stericycle is helping healthcare organizations and communities tackle the opioid crisis by facilitating proper drug disposal.