Expired, Unused and Unwanted Prescription Drugs and Vaping Products Can Be Discarded at More Than 200 Locations Statewide
Drug Disposal at Participating Locations is Free and Anonymous
313 Collection Boxes Distributed Statewide Under DEC's Pharmaceutical Take Back Program
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York is partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 26, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the midst of a nationwide outbreak of vaping-associated illnesses that has proven fatal in many cases, New Yorkers may dispose of vaping devices and cartridges for the first time, along with prescribed controlled substances and other medications, at one of 223 participating locations across the state. Locations can be found using the online collection site locator tool, and this service is free and anonymous.
"As the alarming outbreak of vaping-related illnesses continues to rage across the country, we are taking every step possible to combat this crisis," Governor Cuomo said. "Common sense says if you do not know what you are smoking, don't smoke it, and right now we don't know what is in a lot of these vaping substances. I urge New Yorkers to take advantage of this opportunity to dispose of vaping devices as well as unused prescription medication that could endanger you and members of your family."
Saturday's event marks the 18th time that New York has participated in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. In April, Americans turned in 468.72 tons of prescription drugs at 6,258 sites operated by the DEA and 4,969 of its state, local and tribal law enforcement partners. Since the events began in 2010, the DEA and its partners have taken in more than 5,500 tons of pills. The DEA's New York Division alone collected more than 21 tons of discarded prescription drugs from designated collection sites in April.
In addition to the law enforcement sites available to the public, 446 healthcare facilities across the state will also be participating in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. These facilities, such as long-term care facilities and nursing homes, will dispose of their own unused and expired medications to further reduce the potential of diversion of dangerous controlled substances.
The DEA can only accept pills or patches, not liquids, needles or sharps. While the DEA will now accept vaping devices and cartridges at any of its drop off locations during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, it is important to note that DEA cannot accept devices containing lithium ion batteries. If batteries cannot be removed prior to drop-off, DEA encourages individuals to consult with stores that recycle lithium ion batteries.
According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.9 million Americans have misused controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that most of the misused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, there are concerns about unused pharmaceuticals getting into the wrong hands. More than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, and the Centers for Disease Control has declared this public health threat an epidemic.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "As we continue our investigation into the outbreak of vaping-associated illnesses, we are pleased to offer New Yorkers this timely opportunity to discard vaping products, in addition to prescription drugs that are expired or no longer needed. These are important steps that people can take to prevent potentially fatal incidents as well as substance use problems."
Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "Secure disposal of unwanted and unneeded medications is an important strategy to prevent the diversion of prescribed drugs. Events like this help to keep these potentially dangerous substances out of the hands of people who should not have them and support our efforts to fight addiction across the state. This initiative also offers people a chance to take an active role in prevention efforts in their own community, and I urge all New Yorkers to take advantage of this opportunity."
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Drug Take Back Day is an excellent opportunity for New Yorkers to properly and easily dispose of unwanted medications. Implementation of the program will help to improve water quality, protect public health and reduce potential adverse impacts to fish and aquatic organisms."
Typical methods for disposing of unused medications, such as throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet, pose potential health, safety and environmental hazards.
With technological advances in analytical techniques, it is now possible to detect low levels of drugs in surface water and groundwater. Some drugs pass largely unaltered through wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and other waterways. Flushed medications have been found in New York lakes, rivers and streams and can negatively affect the waterways. A national study conducted in 1999 and 2000 by the U.S. Geological Survey found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80 percent of rivers and streams tested. Medications adversely affect fish and other aquatic wildlife and increase the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation announced in December 2017 that, under New York's $3 million pilot Pharmaceutical Take Back Program, 313 collection boxes have been distributed to participating retail pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state to safely collect unused and expired waste medication. Since May 2018, DEC has collected nearly 19 tons, or 37,318 pounds, of unused, unwanted or expired medications through the pilot program, and New Yorkers are encouraged to use the medication collection box locations year round, which can be found by visiting https://on.ny.gov/rxdropbox and clicking on the map.
The pilot is funded with $3 million from the state's Environmental Protection Fund, which covers the full cost of purchasing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-compliant medication drop boxes, as well as the cost of up to 50 inner liners, and pick-up, transport and destruction of collected waste pharmaceuticals for a period of two years. At the end of the pilot program participants are required to continue the program, at their own expense, for six additional months. DEC is in the process of installing another 120 medication collection boxes across the state under the second phase of the pilot program, which began in February of 2019.
Additionally, the Department of Health, in consultation with DEC, continue to implement the Drug Take Back Act which was signed by Governor Cuomo in July 2018. This program mandates that drug manufacturers establish, fund and manage a New York State approved drug take back program for the safe collection and disposal of unused covered drugs.
For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or about National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, go to the DEA Diversion website.