For the first time, the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 26 — a semi-annual initiative by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that encourages people to anonymously and safely dispose of expired and unused medications — will accept vapes and cartridges.
In a statement, the DEA cites “concerns” that have been raised across the U.S. over “illnesses and death caused by vaping and the high youth vaping initiation rates.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total number of lung injury cases linked to e-cigarettes or vaping products has now reached 1,604, extending to every state except Alaska, and has led to 34 deaths.
“In an effort to support a healthy lifestyle and energetic population, especially amongst America’s youth, DEA is committed to doing all it can to help safely dispose of vaping devices and substances,” the agency said in the statement.
Experts say the DEA’s decision to include vaping devices this year is a good step. Mark Calarco, the national medical director for clinical diagnostics at American Addiction Centers, tells Yahoo Lifestyle: “While we will have to wait to see if this new initiative is actually effective, it does send a powerful message that vaping is not inherently safe and people may need to take action to protect their health. In light of the recent deaths and health consequences linked to vaping, this is a step in the right direction because it continues to raise the alarm about the potential dangers.”
Kevin Wolowiec, retail pharmacy manager at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle: “I am supportive of any effort to remove addictive or harmful substances from our community.”
Along with vaping devices and cartridges, the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is also the time to dispose of any old prescription drugs taking up room in your medicine cabinet.
The free service, which launched in 2010, is part of an effort to stop drug abuse. The DEA noted that having unused prescription medications at home means they’re “vulnerable to misuse, theft or abuse by family members and visitors, including children and teens. That's dangerous and often tragic.”
“When old or unused prescriptions are not properly discarded, there is the potential for misuse or even theft,” explains Calarco. “In fact, when analyzing prescription misuse in the United States, we find the majority of people surveyed indicate they got their drugs from a friend or relative. A recent study from River Oaks Treatment Center found this to be the case for 52.8 percent of respondents, compared to 36.4 percent who were prescribed a pain reliever. About 4 percent of the time this happens without the knowledge of the friend or relative.”
Calarco continues: “With prescription and illicit opioids accounting for 68 percent of overdose deaths, it’s important we do all we can to keep these medications off the streets and out of the wrong hands. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a day set aside to make it convenient for the public to safely discard of these medications with hundreds of drop off locations across the country.”
He adds: “At the end of the day, it’s about preventing the misuse of the medications and saving lives.”
Wolowiec says the program can also help patients who are taking daily medications, but may “experience medication discontinuations and dosage changes.
“Keeping old prescriptions may lead to confusion about therapies and a patient inadvertently taking a medication that was discontinued or the wrong dose of a medication,” he says.
If you have vaping devices or prescription medications you’d like to safely dispose of on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, you can either search for the nearest collection center by using your zip code or city and state on the DEA’s site or by calling 800-882-9539. There are more than 6,000 collection sites across the U.S., which will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time on Oct. 26.
However, before dropping off any e-cigarettes or vaping devices, you have to first remove the battery (the collection centers can’t take lithium-ion batteries). If you’re having trouble removing the battery, the DEA suggests consulting “with stores that recycle lithium-ion batteries.” Or you can dispose of it through local e-waste recycling programs or events. You can find local programs by searching by state here.
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