Woman Emptying Pills into Her Hand

How to support Mental Health Awareness Month with drug deactivation and disposal 

Addressing stigma and increasing access to prevention resources can help counter substance misuse 

By: Hon. Mary Bono, Chairman of the Board, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA)

Mental illness is far more common than most people realize: nearly 53 million Americans were living with a mental illness in 2020 – that’s about one in five U.S. adults.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an observance dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and fighting the stigma of mental illness. Mental health is a relevant topic at any time, but the stressors of the last two years have made addressing issues like anxiety, depression, and substance use a pressing concern for individuals, policymakers, and healthcare providers.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) can be especially challenging to discuss, as it is often accompanied by stigma, guilt, and other mental health struggles. It’s critical to talk openly about substance misuse and its impact on mental health while providing meaningful ways to prevent it and support those experiencing it.

How can you help? Consider:

  • Know the signs of drug misuse. A SUD can be hard to spot, even in close friends and family members. Changes in mood or behavior, withdrawal from social activities, or physical markers like unexplained weight changes can be signs of a substance use issue.


  • Routinely deactivate and dispose of unused medication. Medications left over from surgeries, dental work or even vet visits tend to linger in our medicine cabinets. To prevent these drugs from falling into the wrong hands, use the Deterra® Drug Deactivation and Disposal System to safely destroy them as soon as they are no longer needed.


  • Be aware of counterfeit drugs. Opioid misuse often starts in the home medicine cabinet, but counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl are responsible for an increasing number of deadly overdoses. If you are unsure of the origin of any medications, use the Deterra System to properly dispose of them.


  • Get resources into your community. Encourage your pharmacist, healthcare providers, and employer to provide prevention and support resources to help raise awareness about substance misuse. Even schools, community clinics, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits can help increase access to mental health tools and training materials.


  • Take the No Shame pledge. SAFE Project, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending the addiction epidemic, launched a grassroots campaign to combat the stigma that often acts as a barrier to individuals getting help for mental health and substance use disorders. This campaign aims to create a nationwide movement to combat negative public perceptions caused by stigma and support those seeking treatment. Take the pledge at safeproject.us/noshame.
Mary Bono holding No Shame pledge

You can join SAFE Project’s nationwide campaign to reduce stigma by signing the No Shame pledge at safeproject.us/noshame

Make Prevention Part of the Conversation

Substance use must be part of the mental health conversation. Prevention resources like at-home drug deactivation and disposal tools can help start the discussion about the importance of eliminating opportunities for misuse. The simple act of proper disposal can help prevent addiction before it begins and remove temptation for those in recovery. Do your part by cleaning out your medicine cabinet today and encourage your friends, neighbors, and community members to make prevention a priority.


Headshot of Mary Bono

About the Author

Hon. Mary Bono, former U.S. Representative of California, was elected to eight terms in Congress and serves on the Deterra Board of Directors. A passionate advocate and leader, Bono is chairman and CEO of Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA) and serves on the boards of the national nonprofit SAFE Project and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).

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