This Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is the latest National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.  Local collections sites are available here.  A photo of the Drug Take Back site in the Hart Senate Office Building this week is available here.  

Floor Statement of Sen. Chuck Grassley
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day
Submitted to the Senate Record Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mr. President, this Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is coordinating the latest National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.  Take Back Days are nationwide efforts to remove old or unused prescription drugs from medicine cabinets so they don’t fall into the wrong hands and lead to substance abuse and addiction.  I’m proud to have helped encourage Take Back Days a few years ago by working with Senators Klobuchar, Cornyn and Brown to pass the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health care providers wrote almost a quarter of a billion opioid prescriptions in 2013, enough for every American adult to have his or her own bottle of pills.  The accumulation of these medicines in our homes creates a public health risk, since they can be accidentally ingested, abused, stolen, and passed on to others.  According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.5 million Americans abused controlled prescription drugs that year.  According to that same study, a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

Obviously, the consequences of this prescription drug abuse can be dangerous, and even deadly.  Prescription drug abuse may lead to abuse of other drugs like heroin, which is cheaper and more readily available.  In 2014, more than 47,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, an all-time high.  Incredibly, more than half of those deaths involved prescription opioids or heroin.

So raising public awareness about the dangers of abuse and reducing the availability of unused medications are important components of preventing prescription drug abuse and addiction.  The Take Back Day initiative is a great way to make progress on both fronts.

Beginning in September 2010, the DEA has coordinated these days twice a year, with fantastic results.  At the most recent event last September, Americans turned in 350 tons of prescription drugs at more than 5,000 sites operated by the DEA and more than 3,800 of its state and local law enforcement partners.  Overall, in its 10 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in more than 2,750 tons of pills.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that Take Back events have probably saved lives.

Now, for some unexplained reason, the Obama Administration decided to discontinue this program a few years ago.  But in May 2015, I was a member of a bipartisan group of senators who wrote to the Department of Justice, urging that it be reinstated.  A few months later, DEA Acting Administrator Rosenberg did so.  I’m grateful for that decision.

In fact, I support expanding take back opportunities, by creating additional permanent, convenient disposal sites for the public.  Expansion of the program along these lines is explicitly authorized in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill I guided through the Judiciary Committee in February.  It subsequently passed the Senate by a vote of 94-1.

So I urge everyone in Iowa and across the country to check your homes for unneeded or expired medicines.  If you find any, please take part in this year’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday.  Participating locations typically include neighborhood pharmacies and local fire and police departments.  You can locate a specific collection site near you on the DEA’s website.  This is one small way we can each do our part to reduce the risk of drug abuse and addiction for our families and communities.