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Prescription Drug Take Back in the United States

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Prescription Drug Abuse – A National Health Crisis

Prescription drug abuse and addiction have rapidly become major public health concerns throughout the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an estimated 18 million Americans abused a prescription medication in the year 2017 alone. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health concluded that during the same year, roughly 2 million adults throughout the US abused a prescription painkiller for the first time. This means that somewhere around 5,480 individuals were initiating painkiller abuse on a daily basis. 1.5 million adults abused a prescription tranquilizer, 1 million abused a prescription stimulant and close to 271,000 abused a prescription sedative for the very first time. The reasons why prescription drug abuse has become such a prevalent issue vary, however, the increase in circulating medications can be largely attributed to the over-prescription of narcotic painkillers during the early 1990s. Another reason is the ease of access; men and women of any demographic or personal background often have access to unused or expired prescriptions that can easily be found in the medicine cabinets of their friends or family members. Unfortunately, many individuals mistakenly believe that because these medications were initially prescribed by a medical professional, they are essentially harmless – even when taken other than as prescribed. On the contrary, prescription opioids, central nervous system depressants and stimulants are responsible for thousands of untimely deaths on an annual basis.

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Commonly Abused Prescription Medications

An article published by NIDA comprehensively lists the most commonly prescribed habit-forming medications.

These include:

  • Prescription opioids: opioid pain relievers and morphine derivatives. These medications are most commonly used for the treatment of pain-related issues, and include codeine, morphine, methadone, fentanyl and other synthetic opioid narcotics, and other opioid medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone and propoxyphene.
  • Prescription stimulants: amphetamines and methylphenidate. These medications are typically used to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other attention and focus-related issues. Common brand name prescription stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta and Dexedrine.
  • Prescription depressants: tranquilizers, barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sleep medications. These medications are typically taken for the treatment of anxiety disorders and sleep-related issues, like insomnia. Some common brand name prescription depressants include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Halcion, Librium, Ativan, Lunesta, Ambien, Amytal and Nembutal.

All of these prescription medications have a high potential for abuse. If you have an unused, unwanted or expired prescription that you have been holding onto for any length of time, it is crucial that you dispose of the medication safely in order to reduce the risk of drug abuse. Fortunately, National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is being held on October 24. This nationwide event allows for the safe disposal of potentially addictive medications, ultimately preventing avoidable drug abuse.

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National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration website, “The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. The DEA’s National Prescription Take Back Day event provides an opportunity for Americans to prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths.” During the last Take Back Day, over 882,919 pounds of unused medication was collected at over 6,174 sites throughout the country. Click here for the “Collection Site Locator” so that you can easily find a site in your immediate area. If you are not able to make it by any one of the designated sites, the DEA strongly encourages you to take the steps necessary to safely dispose of unused medications on your own.

Safely Disposing of Unused Medications

The US Food and Drug Administration suggests a step-by-step process when it comes to disposing of unused medications, which includes:
  • Crushing the medication up. This way it will be harder to recognize and harder to potentially abuse.
  • Mixing the crushed medication with an unappealing and easily located substance, like used coffee grounds, cat litter, dirt or sawdust. Not only does this make the medication unrecognizable, it makes it more unappealing to someone who might be going through the trash looking for discarded drugs.
  • Sealing the combination in a plastic bag or another sealable container. This prevents the drug from leaking or spilling out.
  • Disposing of the container in the household garbage.
  • Using a permanent marker to cross out all of your personal information on the prescription pill bottle. This protects your identity and your privacy. Be sure to dispose of the pill bottle in the household garbage as well.

Click here to find the closest prescription drug take back center near you!

There is also a chance that the prescription you are attempting to dispose of is on the FDA’s “flush list,” meaning that flushing the unused medication down the toilet will not contaminate the local water supply. There has been no sign of environmental effects when it comes to flushing approved medications. The FDA and the US Environmental Protection Agency have done extensive research on this topic – however, it is very important that you do not flush any medications that are not included in this comprehensive list.

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Guardian Recovery – Comprehensive Addiction Treatment

At Guardian Recovery we understand just how dangerous sharing unused or unwanted prescription medications can be. Many of our clients come to us with prescription drug addictions after having received medication from a close friend or family member. Prescription opioids, stimulants and central nervous system depressants can be extremely potent and habit-forming, leading to the development of a serious physical and psychological dependency in a very short period of time. If you have been struggling at the hands of a prescription drug addiction of any severity, we are available to help. Guardian Recovery offers a multi-phased curriculum of quality clinical care and immersive addiction treatment. Our program was carefully designed by a team of experienced and compassionate professionals with client comfort and long-term sobriety in mind. The continuum of care begins with medical detox, transitions to inpatient or residential treatment and concludes with thorough aftercare planning. We have facilities in Southern Florida, Colorado, Maine and New Jersey, all dedicated to helping men and women of all ages overcome drug addiction and alcoholism once and for all. Some of the recovery-related services we provide include: We effectively treat men and women of all ages who have been suffering at the hands of a substance abuse disorder, co-occurring disorder, mental and/or behavioral health issue or unresolved trauma and/or PTSD. Our home-style retreat facilities offer a wide range of amenities, from coastal views and locales and private, well-appointed suites to daily chef-prepared meals and highly individualized recovery programming. Regardless of your unique needs, Guardian Recovery is available to help. Simply give us a call for a brief, over-the-phone pre-assessment which helps us determine which level of clinical care is the best fit for you. Join Guardian Recovery in this year’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, and feel free to reach out to us at any point in time for more information on our comprehensive program of prescription drug addiction recovery.

Click Here To Find Out The Closest Disposal Center Near You!

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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