In the past, anyone who wished to dispose of unused prescription medications had to flush the pills or turn them in to police departments. In a month’s time, however, consumers will be able to return unused prescriptions to their local pharmacies.
This new regulation, announced by the Drug Enforcement Administration, was initiated in response to the rising rates of prescription painkiller addiction. Leftover pills stocked in medicine cabinets can be alluring to teens, who may become addicted and turn to heroin—a cheaper drug in the same class, opioids—when the supply runs out.
Pharmacies that register to take back leftover medication on-site or through the mail can make disposal easier, more environmentally conscious, and safer than flushing or leaving unneeded pills in the medicine cabinet.
This is a welcome change to many in the medical community. Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, “It’s baffling that it’s so easy to get a prescription for opioids and yet so difficult to dispose of these drugs safely.”