Legal Issues Relating to the Disposal of Dispensed Controlled Substances [October 19, 2010]   [open pdf - 204KB]

From the Document: "According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the intentional use of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes is the fastest-growing drug problem in the country and the second-most common form of illicit drug abuse among teenagers in the United States, behind marijuana use. Young adults and teenagers may find their parents' prescription drugs in unsecured medicine cabinets or other obvious locations in the home, or they may retrieve expired or unwanted medication from the trash. It is believed that properly disposing of unwanted medications would help prevent prescription drug abuse by reducing the accessibility and availability of such drugs. Yet throwing prescription medications into the trash or flushing them down the toilet may not be environmentally desirable. In response, many local communities and states have implemented pharmaceutical disposal programs (often referred to as drug 'take-back' programs) that collect unused and unwanted medications from patients for incineration or other method of destruction that complies with federal and state laws and regulations, including those relating to public health and the environment. Prescription drugs may be categorized as either controlled substance medication or noncontrolled substance medication. Pharmaceutical controlled substances, such as narcotic pain relievers OxyContin® and Vicodin®, are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs. However, community take-back programs usually only accept non-controlled substance medication, in compliance with the federal Controlled Substances Act. This statute comprehensively governs all distributions of controlled substances, and it currently does not allow for a patient to transfer a controlled substance to another entity for any purpose, including disposal of the drug. As a consequence, patients seeking to reduce the amount of unwanted controlled substances in their possession have few alternative disposal options beyond discarding or flushing them."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R40548
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