New Guidelines Urge Careful Disposal of Prescription Drugs

The Nation's Health, April 2007 | Go to article overview

New Guidelines Urge Careful Disposal of Prescription Drugs


RESPONDING to rising rates of prescription drug abuse as well as environmental contamination, federal drug control advocates are calling on Americans to take care when disposing of their medications.

Three federal agencies--the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Department of Health and Human Services and Environmental Protection Agency--jointly released new guidelines in February designed to help people safely trash their prescription drugs.

The guidelines urge people to remove unwanted prescription drugs from their original bottles, mix the drugs with an undesirable substance such as used coffee grounds or cat litter, and then throw them away in containers such as empty cans. Americans can also return expired prescription drugs to pharmacies with programs that allow people to drop off drugs for safe disposal.

One of the main reasons for the new guidelines is the increasing prevalence of prescription drug abuse among young adults. Misuse of prescription pain killers ranks second as the nation's most prevalent illegal drug abuse problem, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. About 60 percent of people who abuse prescription pain killers said that they got their prescription drugs from a friend or relative. Federal officials have a goal of reducing prescription drug abuse by 15 percent over the next three years.

"Health care providers, pharmacists and family should be alert to the potential for prescription drug misuse, abuse and dependence," said HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt. "People in need should be encouraged to seek help for drug problems and if needed, enter treatment."

Internationally, the abuse and trafficking of prescription drugs is set to exceed illicit drug abuse, the International Narcotics Control Board warned in its Annual Report in March. …

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