Once a year, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration authorizes programs around the country that allow local enforcement agencies to collect unwanted prescription drugs. It’s an excellent way to deal with a growing problem — of unwanted drugs either getting into the hands of the wrong people or of being unsafely discarded. But there are too many of these drugs in too many medicine cabinets, and once a year simply isn’t enough to get rid of them all properly.
Sen. Chuck Schumer has been trying to get the DEA to approve a change in its mandate to deal with the problem that would allow localities and pharmacists to handle their own take-backs. It’s a good idea. Federal law gives the DEA discretion to do just that, and New York has passed legislation that would allow it, but the DEA has to act first. It needs to soon.
Abuse of prescription drugs is on the verge of becoming an epidemic in this country, as kids are raiding their parents’ medicine cabinet then taking the contents to parties, and burglars — rather than searching all over the house for things like jewelry — simply head straight for the bathroom in search of drugs they can use and/or sell on the black market.
When well-meaning people flush these drugs down the toilet or dump them in the trash, they risk polluting lakes and rivers (in the case of the former) or groundwater (in the case of the latter). If those drugs could be taken back where they were purchased, and disposed of properly, it would reduce burglaries, drug abuse and addiction and pollution. This idea is a no-brainer.