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Implementing Prescription Drug Take-back Initiatives

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Billions of excess opioid pills are prescribed each year in the U.S., many of which end up stored in patient’s homes.

This reservoir of excess opioids poses risks to young children (and pets) who accidentally ingest them. It may also initiate or maintain opioid misuse in adolescents and adults.



  • Prescription drug take-back days are operated around the country twice a year by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in partnership with local law enforcement.

  • Recent Congressional legislation allows more sites in the U.S, such as pharmacies and hospitals, to become authorized, year-round drop-off sites for excess opioids.

  • Other developed nations such as France and Australia operate year-round prescription medicine disposal programs on a much broader scale than does the U.S.



In the U.S., current prescription take-back initiatives have at most a small effect on the excess supply of opioids. They offer modest environmental protection benefits but have little or no impact on the opioid epidemic.

Take-back initiatives could likely achieve a larger effect if the U.S. enforced policies that funded a broad network of year-round drop-off sites, either from public funds or fees paid by opioid manufacturers. These policies are common outside the U.S.

Key Policy Evidence: