National Drug Take-Back Day was indefinitely delayed from April 25 amid the coronavirus pandemic, but lawmakers now want the federal government to find a way for people to dispose of potentially dangerous drugs at home.
Fourteen members of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force asked the Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday to create an at-home disposal initiative to get rid of prescriptions without leaving the home as not all cities and states are allowing residents to go out in public and dispose of medicine as it normally does.
“While unfortunate, postponing the April 25, 2020, National Drug Takeback Day was necessary given the COVID-19 pandemic and related physical distancing orders,” the lawmakers, led by Democratic Reps. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania wrote in a letter to the DEA. “As such, many Americans will simply not be able to reach authorized collection sites to dispose of unused and unwanted products in the interim. That said, we share the administration’s concern about the risks opioid misuse poses to Americans during this public health emergency.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration expects an increase in people struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief amid the global health crisis and “anticipates” an increase in substance abuse. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found for every 1% increase in a county’s unemployment rate, the opioid death rate went up by 3.6%.
“This increase will also have dire consequences for our already strained public health and public safety resources,” the lawmakers wrote. “To ensure federal takeback efforts continue while Americans deal with COVID-19 and its economic fallout, we encourage the administration to partner with stakeholders to distribute at-home drug deactivation and disposal kits this spring so that the risk of diversion does not increase unnecessarily.”
The agency should instead develop drug deactivation bags that unwanted drugs can be stowed in. The Food and Drug Administration does not approve of flushing drugs down the toilet or drain because the substances contaminate wastewater.
Since 2010, the DEA has collected nearly 12.7 million pounds of expired, unused, or unwanted prescription medications. Opioids are a leading cause of death among drug users, and, in 2017, President Trump declared a public health emergency to combat the surge in opioid-related deaths nationwide.