DEA urges Houstonians to drop off unused pills for ‘Take Back Day’ to keep them away from the black market and avoid abuse

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The Drug Enforcement Administration is urging the public to participate in National Prescription Drug Recovery Day on Saturday, April 30 to help the agency combat the diversion of prescription pills to the black market.

The event offers free, anonymous disposal of unnecessary medications at hundreds of Houston drop-off locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The DEA considers Take Back Day an important initiative in the fight against drug abuse.

“I encourage everyone to get rid of unnecessary prescription drugs now,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “Eliminating unnecessary drugs can help prevent drug abuse.”

During the last event in October, Houston collected 11,000 pounds of prescription drugs, said Kathy Brown, diversion program manager for the Houston division. She noted that this amount was lower than the previous year, which could be attributed to lower attendance due to the COVID pandemic. The amount represents almost 20% of the drugs to be taken back in Texas.

Last year, Texas collected about 56,000 pounds, or 28 tons, the second highest amount among the states. However, the state has taken back more drugs than any other since the program began in 2010, totaling nearly 600 tons.

Importance

Many people may not be aware of the importance of getting rid of unnecessary medications, Brown said.

“The majority of opioid addictions in America start with prescription pills found in what? Home medicine cabinets,” Brown said.

Experts say opioid pills aren’t the only drugs playing a role in addiction and overdose. Polydrug use, or the use of drug cocktails, is a common form of so-called recreational or party drug use. This can involve an array of possible combinations, including popular prescription and over-the-counter medications, from antidepressants and stimulants to blood pressure medications and allergy medications.

However, Brown said “it is extremely important to let the public know that the misuse and abuse of opioids remains at an epidemic level in the United States.” Drug overdose deaths increased by 16% last year, killing 290 every day, with legal and illegal opioids present in 75% of deaths.

Brown said many people may have leftover medications from treatments sitting in a cupboard that can be misused by family members for consumption or sale.

In Texas, for example, a prescription opioid pill can now sell for $20, according to StreetRX, a website that tracks black market prices. Other popular drugs such as Xanax or Prozac sell for between $5 and $12. Meanwhile, a 100mg pill of Viagra can be as high as $53 and 20mg of Focalin XR, a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is $265.

Brown said a good thing about Take Back Day is the DEA’s anonymity policy. “It can be opioids and everything else…no questions asked. We had people coming in with boxes and dresser drawers full of drugs. She said the same policy applies to all collection sites, many of which are run by partners such as local police departments. For the first time this year, drugs can also be dropped off at any Veterans Administration medical center in accordance with the Opioid DUMP Act passed last year.

To drop off their packages, people can find pickup locations by zip code or by city and state on www.DEAtakeBack.com.

People don’t have to wait for Medication Pick Up Day to drop off their medication. This can be done year round at locations that are on the same web page.

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