The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSA) ask Tennesseans to take part in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Take Back Day for prescription drugs on Saturday, April 24 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.


The initiative addresses public safety and public health issues. It is an opportunity to rid homes of expired, unused, unwanted, and potentially dangerous prescription drugs. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. Sites cannot accept liquids, needles, or sharps – only pills or patches.


“This is an important program for both health and environmental reasons,” David Salyers, TDEC commissioner, said. “It’s a convenient way to rid a household of prescription drugs that are no longer needed, and it keeps those drugs out of our water supply. We are happy to partner with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services on this effort. The partnership helps make this program succeed.”


“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted so many patterns of normal daily life, and that includes regular disposal of potentially harmful prescription medication,” Marie Williams, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said. “On this National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, we’re encouraging people to get back in the habit of safely and securely disposing the medications they no longer need.”


“We know most people who get addicted to opioids start with a prescription,” Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, said. “That is why it is important to properly dispose of your unused prescription drugs, to prevent the unintended consequences of misuse, which can lead to addiction and use of other drugs such as fentanyl which are having an outsized impact on drug overdose deaths in our state.”


Dropoff locations, available year-round, can be found online in a map of 355 authorized collection sites throughout Tennessee. Take Back Day events can be found at Substance Abuse Prevention Coalitions and other community groups team up with their local law enforcement to host the events. According to national research, about two-thirds of people who misuse or abuse prescription medications obtain them from family or friends.


To keep everyone safe, collection sites will follow local COVID-19 guidelines and regulations. Pandemic precautions may have limited access to permanent drop boxes, which are normally available on-demand.


This year’s Take Back Day is important because the April 2020 Take Back Day was canceled due to the pandemic, and the amount of medication collected in Tennessee during the October 2020 Take Back Day was about one-third the amount collected in October 2019.


The event this month is the DEA’s 20th nationwide Take Back Day since its inception over 10 years ago. Last fall, Americans turned in nearly 493 tons (985,392 pounds) of prescription drugs at over 4,500 sites operated by the DEA and over 4,100 of its state and local law enforcement partners.  Those partnerships have now collected nearly 6,850 tons of prescription medications since the inception of the initiative in 2010.


A video on Take Back Day is available online.


More information about the takeback program is available online from TDEC, as well as from the DEA. Meanwhile, ResilienTN focuses on building resilience and strengthening community connections to prevent the tragic loss of life due to overdose and suicide.