Today, You Can Find Where to Dispose Drugs More Easily
By ADM Brett P Giroir MD, Assistant Secretary for Health
US Department of Health and Human Services
Of the millions of Americans who misuse prescription drugs every year, a majority obtain them from friends and family, usually from home medicine cabinets. Every day in the U.S., more than 130 people die as a result of opioid-related overdoses. The cost of this epidemic is estimated to be close to $500 billion a year, and the impact on families and on the social fabric of communities is immeasurable. Proper disposal of unused prescription drugs can help save lives, but locating the nearest disposal site can be a challenge.
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is designed to help facilitate the return of unused or expired prescription drugs and to reduce the number of instances of opioid misuse. While these events serve to increase awareness –the DEA and its local partners collected 1.85 million pounds of returned medications/drugs at their events in 2018 – a single day is not nearly enough to address the scope of misuse in our communities. Regular access to drug disposal sites year-round is essential. Today marks a critical step as Google launches a pilot to make drug disposal sites available on Google Maps.
This pilot on Google Maps makes it easier for Americans to find year-round options to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs – making every day a Take Back Day. Now, by searching “drug drop off near me” in Google, you will find drug disposal sites near you.
In collaboration with several states, CVS Health and Walgreens, this pilot is a first attempt at building a national data set of drug disposal sites. State governments in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Iowa, and Pennsylvania contributed data. While this source does not yet include all drug disposal sites that are available, it is an essential first step that starts the process and provides helpful information for consumers.
We hope additional states will continue to compile this data, and make it available to enable easier discovery and access for those seeking to return unused pills. Already, the DEA is working with Google to provide additional data to the pilot in the future.
For the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), this launch serves as a powerful reminder of the impact of public-private partnerships and the fundamental role of data as a driver to empower such collaborations.
The concept for the drug disposal sites on Google Maps came from a winning solution at the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon, which, one year ago, challenged the public to develop data-driven solutions to address the opioid overdose epidemic. At the Code-a-Thon, more than 250 coders met in HHS headquarters and worked through the night using 70 data sets to come up with solutions in the areas of treatment, prevention and understanding opioid usage. Team Visionist, one of the three winning solutions, developed a prototype of the drug disposal site finder that served as the genesis for the tool launched today on Google Maps.
The new drug disposal site locator feature is just one of the many exciting outcomes from the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon and a testament to the power of bringing together communities with diverse skill sets to address some of the most challenging public health problems facing this country.
This post was originally published on the HHS Blog and is syndicated here with permission.