Alameda: Pharmaceuticals Now Financially Responsible for Drug Disposal

It’s been a battles for years—on one hand, we have addicts who might be doctor-shopping (or stealing from a friend’s medicine cabinet) to get enough for their Vicodin, OxyContin, or Xanax fix, and on the other hand, we have pharmaceutical companies trying to provide legitimate medication for patients.

Until now, it has been assumed that pharmaceutical companies are not responsible—financially or otherwise—for the rising number of prescription drug abuse in America. But this week that changed.

On June 24, 2012, officials in Alameda County, passed an ordinance (5-0) that holds pharmaceutical companies financially responsible for the disposal of drugs in the county.

Alameda County—similar to counties all over the nation—has several drug disposal sites, and until now, keeping these sites going but now, the drug manufacture companies will be responsible for these sites. Although residents are encouraged to drop-off their unused prescription drugs at these sites, millions of people still have unused drugs in their medicine cabinets.

And this easy access to medications and painkillers is creating a rising prescription drug abuse problem across the nation.

Prescription Drug Abuse Rising

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one-hundred people die every die from a drug overdose. And three out of four drug overdoses in the country are from prescription drugs.

The CDC also reports that

  • “In 2010, about 12 million Americans (age 12 or older) reported nonmedical use of prescription painkillers in the past year.”
  • “Nearly half a million emergency department visits in 2009 were due to people misusing or abusing prescription painkillers.”

Sometimes prescription drug abuse is the result of a patient becoming addicted to his or her painkiller. But other times, prescription drug abuse occurs because someone else had access to the drugs. It is estimated that nearly 70% of people who experiment with painkillers and prescription drugs get the drug from a family or friend.

Perhaps this is why Alameda County worked so hard to create this ordinance. If people are gaining access to prescription drugs primarily from friends and family members, then getting these drugs disposed of is imperative. But how should you dispose of prescription drugs and painkillers?

How to Dispose of Prescription Drugs Properly

It is important to dispose of medications and prescription drugs carefully to protect others and the environment. Here are some quick tips for getting rid of these substances appropriately:

Do Not

  • Throw medications in the trash: This is too easy for others to access.
  • Flush down the toilet: You might be tempted to flush your old medications down the commode, but this is not recommended because of the possibility it might enter the water stream.


If for some reason, you cannot find a drop-off location, then

  • Take drugs out of their bottles and mix them with an undesirable substance such as kitty litter or coffee grinds.
  • Place this mixture inside of a sealed bag or can before placing in the trash. 

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day: September 29, 2012

Recently, the DEA has been organizing National Take-Bake Initiatives around the country to raise the awareness of dangers of old medications. The most recent day, held on April 28, collected over 500,000 pounds of drugs alone. To date, they have collected over 1.5 million pounds of drugs. 

The next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will be September 29, 2012.

Alameda County Taking the Right Steps

Prescription drugs and painkillers are a rising problem, but we are pleased to see that Alameda County is aggressively pursuing options that can help lower easy access to prescription drugs.

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