Deterra icon banner graphic

Gone for Good campaign helped 10,000 U.S. homes safely dispose of legal drugs during pandemic



A nonprofit helping people safely dispose of their medication has released the results of its at-home medication deactivation and disposal campaign.

The Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic Project, or SAFE, sent free “Deactivation and Disposal pouches” to 10,000 U.S. homes so people could fill them with unused prescription or over-the-counter medication for disposal. The spring campaign helped fill the need to dispose of drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted some national initiatives.

“Safe medication disposal is the responsibility of every household, and it is a non-negotiable to have at-home solutions available, especially with the current pandemic and for those who do not have easy access to take back events or permanent drop box sites,” said Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, co-founder of SAFE Project.

This Gone for Good campaign was in partnership with Deterra, and people were able to request the free Deterra drug disposal pouches from April until May 10. In a press release, SAFE said disposing and deactivating these drugs will prevent “opportunities for drug abuse, misuse, diversion and accidental poisoning.”

According to data from Deterra, there were over 1,000 pouches distributed just in the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. region. The campaign reached 46 states in total, Deterra said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest available data on prescriptions in the United States is from the year 2018 — reporting 168,158,611 total number of prescriptions across the country that year. The CDC said in 2018 “the prescribing rate had fallen to the lowest in the 13 years for which we have data.”

But still, the CDC reports that enough opioid prescriptions were dispensed for every person to have one in 11% of U.S. counties in 2018. West Virginia is noted as one of the states with high prescribing rates. Deterra’s data shows just three pouches were requested in West Virginia during the April-May 2020 Gone for Good campaign.

While free drug disposal pouches are no longer available, people are still able to purchase them. Each pouch holds up to 90 pills or 12 patches, WDVM reported at the start of the campaign.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has a bi-annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, however its April 25 date was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The last Drug Take Back Day was in October 2019, and the DEA reports there were 6,174 authorized collection sites around the country that day. The collection sites collected 882,919 lbs. of medication, the DEA said.

According to SAFE Project, the Gone for Good campaign started partially as a result of the DEA postponing April’s drug take back day. “The initiative aimed to break down barriers to safe disposal due to COVID-19,” SAFE said, including barriers like “limited access to take-back sites due to stay-at-home orders, suspension of permanent drop box programs and the increase in opioid overdose risks due to isolation and unemployment.”

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.