The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's first-ever national prescription drug "Take-Back" campaign collected more than 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs from the American public for safe and proper disposal.
More than 4,000 take back sites were available in all 50 states on Saturday, and Americans responded in huge numbers.
"The Take-Back campaign was a stunning nationwide success that cleaned out more than 121 tons of pills from America's medicine cabinets, a crucial step toward reducing the epidemic of prescription drug abuse that is plaguing this nation," according to Michele M. Leonhart, DEA's acting administrator. "Thanks to our state and local law enforcement and community partners-and the public-we not only removed these dangerous drugs from our homes, but also educated countless thousands of concerned citizens about the dangers of drug abuse."
Currently, unused prescription drugs can only be handed over to law enforcement for disposal. Congress passed legislation known as the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 on Wednesday that's now awaiting a signature from President Obama to allow state or private entities to collect the medications.
"More than 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or family — often from the home medicine cabinet," according to Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske. "Expanding take-back efforts nationwide is a key strategy in preventing prescription drug diversion and abuse, while safeguarding the environment."
DEA and other law enforcement working at disposal sites around the country reported huge turnouts of people ridding their medicine cabinets of unused or unwanted drugs. In Troy, Mo., a man brought his kitchen drawer full of medication to the collection site to empty. At another site in Jacksonville, Ill., a woman brought in nearly 50 years' worth of medicines for disposal.
More than seven million Americans abuse prescription drugs, according to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health. And every day, on average, 2,500 teens use them to get high for the first time, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.