In an effort to address the nation's growing prescription drug abuse problem, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will now allow hospitals, clinics and pharmacies to collect unused prescription drugs.
The DEA's new regulation will also provide residents at long-term health facilities with the option of turning in unused prescription drugs on-site.
"We are expanding drug take-back efforts by introducing new ways for people to safely dispose of old or unused prescription drugs," said Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. in a video message. "Through new DEA regulations, patients will be allowed to more easily join the fight against prescription drug abuse."
Government officials said the sites offer a more environmentally-friendly alternative to disposing of the prescription drugs at home.
Holder described prescription drug abuse as an "urgent and growing threat."
According to a survey released last week from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there were about 6.5 million people, ages 12 years or older, taking prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in 2013. In 2011, prescription drugs played a role in more than half of the 41,300 unintentional deaths from drug overdoses.
"These shocking statistics illustrate that prescription drug addiction and abuse represent nothing less than a public health crisis," Holder said. "And every day, this crisis touches — and devastates — the lives of Americans from every state, in every region and from every background."
In the last four years, the DEA has hosted eight national take-back events, in which Americans can drop off unwanted or expired prescription drugs at designated sites. More than 4.1 million pounds of prescription pills have been collected and disposed of. The next take-back event will be on Sept. 27.