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Attorneys General Participate in Successful Drug Take Back Events

Attorneys General promoted and attended state activities for the National Drug Take Back Day on Sept. 25. Overall, the public turned in more than 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs for safe and proper disposal [and] more than 4,000 take back sites were available in all 50 states, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which led the national effort.

Preventing drug abuse and promoting prescription drug safety remain a priority for the chief legal officers of the states.

“Prescription drugs can be helpful when used correctly, but they can turn dangerous or even deadly when abused or misused,” said NAAG President and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. “By turning in old medications so they can be destroyed safely, people can help keep these drugs from falling into the wrong hands.”

Serving as just two examples of many successful state activities, Attorneys General Steve Bullock of Montana and Greg Zoeller of Indiana spearheaded drug take back efforts in their states.

According to the Montana Attorney General’s Office, one in five teens admits to abusing prescription medications, and in 16 states, including Montana, prescription drugs are a contributing factor in more deaths than car accidents. Approximately 2,570 pounds of prescription drugs have been taken back across over 30 communities from two Montana events held this year.

Attorney General Bullock, who assisted at an event in Helena, Mont., has made fighting illegal drug use a priority. In the past year he has set up astatewide Prescription Drug Abuse Ad Campaign, started a Prescription Drug Abuse Advisory Council, and secured $1,230,902 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help fight prescription drug abuse in his state. He is also co-chair of the NAAG Prescription Drug Abuse committee.

The take back efforts in Indiana saw 4,814 pounds of drugs, collected across 53 sites. Attorney General Zoeller visited an Indianapolis take back site.

“Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet,” said Attorney General Zoeller.

The national initiative provided an alternative to environmentally-destructive ways of disposing drugs. All the drugs collected in Montana and Indiana were burned in treatment plants in Salt Lake City, Utah and Indianapolis respectively. Typically they are thrown out and end up in landfills and water supplies.

NAAG-backed Drug Disposal Bill now Law

On a related note, President Obama signed into law Oct. 12 the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 (P.L. #111-273) in response to concerns about the environmental hazards linked to improper disposal of medications and to the rising tide of prescription drug diversion, especially among teens. The National Association of Attorneys General supported the federal legislation in a sign-on letter dated June 25. The U.S. Senate passed it Aug. 3 and the House on Sept. 29.

The law allows DEA to develop regulations that will allow the owner of controlled substances to dispose of these medications in a safe manner. It specifically forbids the regulations to require any particular entity to operate a disposal program. There is also a provision permitting DEA to issue regulations authorizing long-term care facilities to dispose of these medications, but does not require it. However, until permanent regulations are in place, DEA has announced that it will continue to hold one-day take-back programs such as the highly successful Sept. 25 event.

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DEA personnel unload boxes of prescription drugs into a front-end loader prior to incineration in Kennedale, Texas. Photo credit-DEA.
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A DEA agent unloads unused prescription drugs that were dropped off at the Woodbridge, VA site. Photo credit DEA.