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Drug Take Back Provides Invaluable Education

Organized by students, the day has immediate impact on the community

minute read

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. In April, the scheduled Drug Take Back Day was organized at CU Anschutz students from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) American Student Pharmacists chapter, over the counter medicine safety group and led by two PharmD students, Daniel Donovan and Benjamin Abraham.

Daniel Donovan and Benjamin Abraham


Students Daniel Donovan, left, and Benjamin Abraham, organizers of this spring's Drug Take Back event for the University.

"Organizing the Drug Take Back Day empowered me for my role as a future pharmacist," said Donovan. "I am able to protect my community and keep them safe, starting within their own homes. Opioid-involved overdoses are one of the most avoidable causes of death. This was highest during the pandemic and has also caused an increase in other related diseases. This fact alone has decreased the average US life expectancy."

"Hopefully," he continued, "by offering more of these opportunities for safe disposal of medications, we are able to circumvent this. With medications such as fentanyl and carfentanil that are resistant to Naloxone administration, safe disposal of medication is always imperative and should be offered more frequently than it is now."

We fired off five quick questions to the two of them to learn more.

Why did you organize the day?
We wanted to organize Drug Take Back Day with the aim to give residents of the Aurora and Denver area a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing medications. With the opioid epidemic, this day also gives students the opportunity to teach about the potential for abuse of medications. Pharmacists are one the most accessible health care providers to the community so giving patients the opportunity to ask questions and learn was very empowering. 

What challenges did you face? Why?
Some of the main challenges that we had with the Drug Take Back Day was gathering volunteers to help. This day fell on a busy time in the semester in addition to being held on the same day as a health fair. Despite this setback, we were able to put on a successful event and make an impact on the community.

How does it impact the community?
Drug Take Back Day impacts the community because it decreases the risk that unwanted medications are improperly disposed of. Prescription medications can be taken from the trash and subsequently abused or illegally sold. Medications that are flushed down the toilet can have ecological harm to wildlife as well as increase the risk of carcinogens being present in drinking water. According to a study by Shealy et al. drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. This can easily be avoided by educating the community on the proper disposal of medications. Drug Take Back Day gives patients a convenient time to drop off medications and take the stress away from having unwanted medications adding clutter.

What did you learn?
The incidence of substance-use disorder in Colorado is astonishing. The stressful time of the pandemic increased this number to a record high. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that in 2021, there were 31.4 deaths/100,000 people in Colorado, only slightly behind 32.4 deaths/100,000 people in the US. Now that pharmacists can prescribe Naloxone, we hope this number will go down.

Who were the key players in making this successful?
The key players in organizing this event (not including us) were Dr. Peter Rice, Professor; Dr. Dana Hammer, Senior Instructor; and the Aurora Police Department. This event would not have happened without their support in the organization process. The other key players were the student volunteers that helped us on the day of the event.

Topics: Community, Students