As the opioid crisis reaches soaring new heights, Americans across the country came together to drop off a record number of unused pills.
The 15th annual event held by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) collected and destroyed nearly 1 million pounds—almost 475 tons—of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs, the department announced Monday, May 4.
The sheer amount of pills collected from the close to 6000 sites across the nation makes it the most successful event in DEA history and brings the total amount compiled by the department to 9,964,714 pounds, or 4,982 tons, since the fall of 2010.
President Donald Trump also gave his support to the initiative.
“National Prescription Drug TakeBackDay numbers are in! Another record broken: nearly 1 MILLION pounds of Rx pills disposed!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Let’s keep fighting this opioid epidemic, America!
National Prescription Drug #TakeBackDay numbers are in! Another record broken: nearly 1 MILLION pounds of Rx pills disposed! Let’s keep fighting this opioid epidemic, America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018
Every day more than 115 people in the United States die from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Trump has made fighting the opioid epidemic one of his top priorities. In October 2017, he designated the epidemic as a nationwide public health crisis. As part of the new budget bill, the administration will provide $4.6 billion in efforts to combat the issue—a $3 billion increase.
On March 19, the president also launched an initiative to combat the crisis. His three-pillar plan includes programs for reducing demand and over-prescription, cutting off the supply of illegal drugs, and helping those struggling with addiction.
Last year, Trump himself donated around $100,000 of his third-quarter salary to Health and Human Services (HHS) to be put into fighting the epidemic.
“The President is personally dedicated to defeating this crisis because addiction hits home for so many of us,” Eric Hargan, then acting HHS secretary said at a press briefing last year. “You heard him share the story in his opioid speech about how he lost his own brother to alcoholism.”
The DEA’s Drug Take Back Day events aim to continue removing the ever-increasing amounts of opioids and other prescription medicine from the homes of American families. Pills left in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse.
In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States are “alarmingly high” according to the DEA, as is the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.
“Today we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
“An unprecedented crisis like this one demands an unprecedented response—and that’s why President Trump has made this issue a priority for this administration. DEA’s National Drug Take Back Days are important opportunities for people to turn in unwanted and potentially addictive drugs with no questions asked,” he continued.
The DEA first launched its prescription drug takeback program in December 2009 when both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration were warning the public about the health and safety risks of flushing medicines or throwing them in the trash.