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Student Pharmacists Lead Record-Breaking DEA Drug Take-Back Day

In collaboration with University police, students collect more than 130 pounds of expired or unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

By Malissa Carroll
May 6, 2014

To help improve medication safety in the local community, student pharmacists from Generation Rx in the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy partnered with the University of Maryland (UM) Police Force to participate in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Take-Back Initiative on April 23 and 26.

Together, they collected 133.5 pounds of expired or unused prescription and over-the-counter medication at their collection site in the University’s Southern Management Corporation Campus Center, making this event the largest of its kind for the School.

“The main goal of Generation Rx is to prevent prescription drug abuse,” says Brittany Palasik, third-year student pharmacist and chair of Generation Rx. “Unused and expired prescription medications are a major public safety issue, and can lead to accidental poisoning, overdose, and abuse. Baltimore City has witnessed an increase in prescription drug abuse among its residents in recent years; therefore, by reducing the amount of prescription drugs available in people’s homes, we are also helping to reduce crime and drug abuse within the community.”

With more people dying as a result of overdoses from prescription medications than from motor vehicle accidents in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared prescription drug abuse to be a nationwide epidemic. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly twice as many people living in the United States abuse prescription drugs than those who use illicit drugs, such as cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, and inhalants. And, more than 70 percent of people ages 12 and older who abuse prescription drugs report getting them from a family member or friend.

“The DEA’s National Take-Back Initiative was a great event for our students,” says Deanna Tran, PharmD, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the School of Pharmacy and one of the faculty advisors for APhA-ASP. “Through their participation in this event, students had an opportunity to bring awareness to the community, provide educational resources and information about safe disposal of medications, and answer any questions about medications the public may have.”

Unused prescription drugs that are thrown in the trash can be retrieved and abused or illegally sold, while those that are flushed can contaminate the water supply. Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and protects the environment. Since the DEA launched its National Take-Back Initiative, it has collected nearly two tons of prescription medications in conjunction with state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners.

“Without assistance from the students at the School of Pharmacy, this event would not have been the success that it was,” says Corporal John Jones, who has represented the UM Police Force at each Take-Back program hosted at the School. “The students have not only educated the individuals who have dropped off prescription drugs, but have also educated me. I hope to continue this partnership with the School of Pharmacy.”

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