Members of the Opioid Task Force are urging the Drug Enforcement Administration to adapt to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and implement at-home drug disposal instead of National Drug Takeback Day.
Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Annie Kuster (D-NH) lead the task force in sending the DEA a letter that while praising the agency for canceling the April 25 National Drug Takeback Day because of the pandemic, also asked the agency to send kits to Americans this spring to deactivate and dispose of opioids at home.
“A key component of our national response to opioid abuse and overdose is to reduce the risk for these drugs to be diverted into the wrong hands for the wrong purposes,” the letter said. “While unfortunate, postponing the April 25, 2020, National Drug Takeback Day was necessary given the COVID-19 pandemic and related physical distancing orders. As such, many Americans will simply not be able to reach authorized collection sites to dispose of unused and unwanted products in the interim… The opportunity exists to mitigate the National Drug Takeback Day delay with an at-home disposal initiative that is convenient and effective while our nation continues to fight both the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing opioid public health emergency.”
Fitzpatrick and Kuster were joined by Reps. Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), David Trone (D-MD), John H. Rutherford (R-FL), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Bill Foster (D-IL), David P. Joyce (R-OH), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Conor Lamb (D-PA), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI).
According to the representatives, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) predicts that the COVID-19 pandemic will create mental health issues like depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief in Americans and will increase the instances of substance abuse as the country deals with the public health and economic crisis.
“National Bureau of Economic Research study demonstrates the importance of acting decisively during tough economic times, indicating that a 1% increase in a county’s unemployment led to a 3.6% increase in opioid death rate,” the letter said. “This increase will also have dire consequences for our already strained public health and public safety resources. To ensure federal takeback efforts continue while Americans deal with COVID-19 and its economic fallout, we encourage the Administration to partner with stakeholders to distribute at-home drug deactivation and disposal kits this spring so that the risk of diversion does not increase unnecessarily.”
According to the letter, studies show that those who receive drug deactivation and disposal kits are more likely to use them than those who are just instructed on how to dispose of them safely.
The representatives noted that at-home disposal is not only identified as an essential part of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.