Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

At MHS pharmacies, every day is ‘Drug Take Back Day’

Image of Photo of empty pill bottles. Bottles of emptied prescription drugs lie in a box during the Drug Take Back event hosted at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina (Photo by: Marine Corps Installations East).

While April 24 has officially been designated National Drug Take Back Day by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), pharmacists across the Military Health System in recent years have been stressing that every day is a drug take back day.

That's because MHS pharmacies are outfitted with MedSafe medication disposal boxes, which can accept all pills, along with properly sealed powders, liquid medications and lotions, and dermal patches. MHS pharmacies also provide mail-in envelopes for medications.

"The bins are right there when you walk into the pharmacy," said U.S. Public Health Service Cmdr. Thien Nguyen, a pharmacist with the Market Management Branch of Pharmacy Operations for the Defense Health Agency. "We wanted to make sure that our beneficiaries knew that any time they were able to get through their medicine cabinets and put in their expired medications, or medications they don’t use anymore, they can bring it in to us any day."

And though National Drug Take Back Day continues to be an effective means of getting an important message out for law enforcement agencies throughout the United States, the MHS has not officially participated in the program since 2016, Nguyen said. The reason? She said MHS pharmacists never want to tell service members or beneficiaries to hang on to a box of prescription drugs and wait for a designated day.

"They can just drop it right off," she said. "Especially if it's a situation where a beneficiary feels like maybe someone in their household has the potential for misuse or abuse, and they want to make sure they get that medication out of the house as soon as possible. They can do it that very same day, to make it as efficient as possible."

Still, the advertising of National Drug Take Back Day and its usual designated hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is an effective reminder for civilian and military populations to take a good look not just in one's medicine cabinet, but in kitchen drawers and bedroom dressers, or even car glove compartments - anyplace that forgotten prescriptions might be hiding - and turn them in safely.

Slogans such as "Don't be the Dealer," and disturbing images such as a small child handling a bottle of dangerous pain killers have a way of reminding the public to take action sooner rather than later.

Unintended pings

There’s another important reason to take a close look at the fine print on medication labels that have been around for a while. Not only can others get ahold of dangerous substances, but there’s a chance that a medication might be used improperly by the very person it was prescribed to in the first place. For active-duty service members, this danger is especially acute.

According to a Department of Defense instruction  issued in June 2020 relating to technical procedures for the military’s drug abuse testing program, “prescriptions for substances included on Schedules II through V of Section 812 of Title 21, United States Code, will be considered expired 6 months after the most recent date of filling, as indicated on the prescription label.”

Said Nguyen: “Outside of that time frame, if the service member pings positive for a drug, they can’t say, ‘It’s because I have this prescription.’ Because if that prescription is older than six months, they’re going to know that doesn’t count — it’s no longer allowed.”

Nguyen noted the new DOD instruction was necessary because until then there had not been a sufficient, explicitly written policy addressing such a scenario.

Meanwhile, national results of the October 19, 2020, National Take Back Day were impressive. As they do every six months or so, thousands of law enforcement agencies took part, establishing 4,587 collection sites that culled nearly 493 tons of prescription drugs, the DEA reported. (Many of those police collection sites are permanent, too.)

National Drug Take Back Day “addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue,” the DEA states on its drug take back web site. “According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2019. The survey also showed that a majority of misused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.”

At MHS facilities alone, Nguyen said that from January 2016 to December 2020, the DOD collected roughly 510,000 pounds of drugs for disposal through its collection receptacles and mail-back envelopes.

Details on the MHS’ Drug Take Back Program can be found here.

You also may be interested in...

Infographic
Feb 8, 2024

Limb Loss Awareness Month

Limb Loss Awareness Month

Have you or a loved one sustained limb loss or dysfunction? DOD’s Advanced Rehabilitation Centers are state-of-the-art facilities focused on the full restoration of normal human function to those patients who have sustained severe extremity trauma or amputation. ARCs are open to eligible DOD beneficiaries of all ages. Find out more: www.health.mil ...

Infographic
Feb 8, 2024

Purple Up Day

Purple Up Day

It’s time to #PurpleUp for military kids! Today, we celebrate and honor the resilience of #MilitaryKids. Show us your purple in honor of #milkids across our communities.

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

Health Information and Privacy Week

Health Information and Privacy Week

We work hard across the Military Health System to keep your information private and secure. Here are some tips you can follow to help do the same: https://tricare.mil/privacy #HealthInformationPrivacyWeek #HIPWeek

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

Occupational Therapy Month

Occupational Therapy Month

DYK, Occupational Therapy can be an important part of recovering from injury and illness? Find out how it can help you: https://health.mil/OccupationalTherapy #OccupationalTherapyMonth

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

Sports Eye Safety Month

Sports Eye Safety Month

Vision is an important sense for service members, yet many of the injuries affecting it occur when playing sports or other off-duty activities. These tips from the Vision Center of Excellence can keep your vision safe and healthy: https://vce.health.mil/Published-Material/Pages/Eye-Injuries-Avoidable-Doctor-Says #SportsEyeSafetyMonth #VisionSafety

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

National Administration Professional Day

National Administration Professional Day

Today is the day to show your gratitude to all the administrative professionals who keep everything running on a daily basis. Thank you, Admin Pros! #AdministrativeProfessionalsDay

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

April Fools Day

April Fools Day

Whatever tricks you have up your sleeve today, have a safe and fun April Fool’s Day. #AprilFools

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

National Donate Life Month

National Donate Life Month

You truly can be a lifesaver! Register as an organ donor and make sure your family knows. #NationalDonateLifeMonth #OrganDonation #OrganDonor

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

National Autism Awareness Month

National Autism Awareness Month

Each year more than 50,000 children with autism transition to adulthood. Help raise awareness around autism and make that transition easier: https://www.hhs.gov/autism #NationalAutismAwarenessMonth

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

Purple Up Day

Purple Up Day

Show your support for military kids of all branches and put on that purple. #PurpleUpDay #MilitaryKids

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

Sexual Assault Awareness: Day of Action

Sexual Assault Awareness Day of Action

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, there are support and resources available to help: https://tricare.mil/SexualTrauma. #SexualAssaultAwareness #SAAMDayOfAction

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month

Do you know the effects alcohol has on your body and health? Learn more: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health #AlcoholAwarenessMonth #AlcoholAwareness

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

National Youth Sports Safety Month

National Youth Sports Safety Month

Help your kids enjoy their favorite sports safely. Here are some tips from the CDC to get you started: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/youthsports/index.html #NationalYouthSportsSafetyMonth #SportsSafety

Infographic
Mar 2, 2023

U.S. National Volunteer Month

U.S. National Volunteer Month

No matter what your passion, there are opportunities for you to support and improve your community. Get out there and volunteer! #NationalVolunteerMonth

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: March 19, 2024
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery