Medical advances in drug treatment and health care have contributed to Americans living longer than ever before. As the population ages, the volume of medications prescribed increases dramatically. Unwanted medications accumulate in the home for a variety of reasons, changes in prescription or dosage, patient gets better or in worse cases the patient dies.

Although senior citizens comprise 13 percent of the total population in the United States, they account for over 30 percent of all prescriptions dispensed, and over 40 percent of all prescription drug spending. According to a 2011 survey by StateHealthFacts.org, the average senior citizen age 65 and older in Michigan fills 23.7 prescriptions per year, almost double that of Michigan adults age 19 to 64.

A 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) national survey showed that more than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs.  Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high.  SAMHSA’s survey also showed that the number of Americans currently abusing prescription drugs is greater than those using cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin combined.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has proposed new regulations to give the public more options for disposing of unwanted prescription medications such as painkillers or sedatives.  This proposed rule is designed to reduce the amount of abused medications on the streets as well as reduce the number of break-ins and thefts of prescription medications.  This rule proposes:

1. Law enforcement will voluntarily continue to conduct take-back events, administer mail-back programs and maintain collection boxes.

2. Allow authorized manufacturers, distributors, reverse distributors and retail pharmacies to voluntarily administer mail-back programs and maintain collection boxes.

3. Allow authorized retail pharmacies to voluntarily maintain collection boxes at long term care facilities.

The public can view this document at www.justice.gov/dea. Click on drug disposal. The DEA is encouraging interested parties to comment on the important proposed rule. The public could  comment until yesterday.

The next National DEA Take-Back Day is scheduled for April 27, 2013.  The past 5 take-back days have resulted in the removal from circulation of more than 2 million pounds (over a thousand tons) of prescription drugs nationwide. Medication collection boxes are available at all law enforcement agencies in Mecosta and Osceola counties and are available to take back unwanted pill medications during regular business hours. Remove all personal information from the bottle, and keep medications in a sealed plastic container or zip-lock bag. Syringes will not be accepted at law enforcement, check with your local hospital for safe disposal of needles.