About the Program

The proper disposal of medications has become a global concern with focuses on safety for the public and the environment. Due to the legalities involved with proper disposal, most U.S. communities do not offer disposal programs for waste medications. As a result, many consumers keep drugs in their possession because they do not want the drugs to go to waste or do not know how to dispose of them properly. Serious safety concerns have arisen regarding issues of accidental poisonings, drug diversion by teens, and environmental risks posed by keeping unused medication in the home. These concerns have prompted the initiation of drug take-back programs by numerous local and state governments and other organizations. The goal of Project Drug Drop is to significantly reduce the diversion of controlled substances through proper disposal practices and community awareness education.

Safety Issues

Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem across the United States and unused medication in the household may contribute to growing rates of prescription drug abuse among Americans, particularly teenagers. The medicine cabinet of friends and family provide a steady supply of medications to inquisitive teens.

Every day 2,500 youth age 12 to 17 abuse a pain reliever for the very first time. More teens abuse prescription drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana. In 2008, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs.1 Among 12- and 13-year-olds, prescription drugs are the drug of choice. 2

Because these medications are so available and because so many teens and parents erroneously believe that they are safer to misuse than illegal street drugs, teens who wouldn’t normally “use drugs” might abuse prescription drugs.

Lack of education and awareness is costing America and the price is the health and welfare of our children.

Environmental Issues

The proper disposal of waste pharmaceuticals and personal health care products has been the center of debate for many years. In the absence of a uniform waste pharmaceutical collection program, individuals are often instructed to flush unwanted pharmaceuticals down toilets or dispose of them in the trash. The concern is that these practices contribute to the contamination of environmental water sources that are cycled back for human consumption.

Legal regulations on the transfer of controlled substances has limited the availability of alternate disposal methods but federal regulatory authorities such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency3 encourage consumers to participate in drug take-back events when possible.

1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA]. (2009).
National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2008
2. Ibid
3. Food and Drug Administration (2010)
Safe Disposal of Medicines, 2009
Drug Enforcement Administration (2010)
Drug Disposal, 2006
Environmental Protection Agency (2010)
EPA and other agencies issue national drug disposal guidelines, 2007